Korea Takes Top Three Spots in Initial Quality Study: J.D. Power
This wouldn’t have happened in the late ’80s, that’s for sure. J.D. Power’s 2018 Initial Quality rankings, amassed from problems reported by owners over the first 90 days of vehicle ownership, shows the area south of the 38th parallel as the Land of Least Annoyance.
The fresh-faced, fledgling Genesis brand took the top spot in this year’s rankings with 68 problems reported per 100 vehicles, followed by Kia in second place (72 problems) and Hyundai in third (74 problems). You might say Hyundai (Motor Group) excelled.
Porsche and Ford rounded out the top five brands in the 2018 study, with 79 and 81 problems per 100 vehicles, respectively. In terms of overall year-over-year improvement, Mazda recorded the greatest rise up the initial quality chart, with 25 fewer problems per 100 vehicles.
Cadillac, Infiniti, and Mitsubishi also earn mentions for overall brand improvement. In a sign that automakers aren’t taking consumers for granted, this year’s initial quality average was the highest ever recorded by J.D. Power. The industry average of 93 problems per 100 vehicles was down from last year’s 97 problems.
Of course, initial quality isn’t identical for all models in a brand’s lineup. Of all vehicles studied, the Porsche 911 recorded the lowest level of customer annoyance, with 48 problems per 100 vehicles.
In terms of vehicle segments, the aging Nissan Frontier took the top spot in the midsize pickup category, while the Chevrolet Silverado and Silverado HD took home the gold in the large light-duty and heavy duty pickup segments. The latter award was shared with the Ford Super Duty line.
Dodge’s stalwart Grand Caravan swept the minivan category, and Hyundai’s Tucson cleaned up in the small SUV segment. The compact SUV field was topped by the Buick Envision, with the Kia Sorento taking the midsize field and Ford’s Expedition taking the full-size crowd. Ford’s Mustang rules the sporty car segment.
As for sedans and hatchbacks, Kia’s redesigned Rio tops the small car field, Toyota’s Corolla bests all compacts, and Nissan’s Altima and Maxima rule the midsize and large car fields. The premium small, compact, midsize, and large categories go to the Acura ILX, BMW 4 Series, Lincoln Continental, and Genesis G90. As for premium SUVs, BMW’s X1 takes the small category, Lincoln’s MKC rules the compact roost, and the BMW X6 cleans up in the midsize category.
As with J.D. Power’s dependability study, there’s sublevels of quality at play in these rankings. A vehicle with fewer powertrain problems might lose out to a model with more reported problems in that category, but fewer in the the realm of infotainment and driver assist technology. Would-be owners are encouraged to delve into the nitty-gritty when weighing which model to buy. No one wants the equivalent of a Lean Burn-equipped Dodge Aspen with a great infotainment interface.
Hardly surprising, wonky tech poses the largest problems these days, though audio/communication/navigation showed its third consecutive year of improvement, despite remaining the largest Achilles heel among new vehicles.
Driver assist technology, often an unfamiliar feature to new car buyers, is on the rise as a score-sinking category. While it’s still a minor gripe (complaints average 3.5 per 100 vehicles), it’s on the rise. J.D. Power claims this category of owner complaints rose 20 percent annually over the past three years.
[Image: Genesis Motors, Ford Motor Company]
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