By on June 20, 2019

J.D. Power’s 2019 Initial Quality Study (IQS) shows industry-wide problems per 100 vehicles (PP100) failing to improve for the first time since 2014. Genesis, Kia, and Hyundai take the top three spots, improving on their 2018 results, while 18 of the 32 brands studied declined.

Hyundai Motor Group’s brands continue their trend of increasing their advantage over their competitors. The Genesis brand improved from 68 to 63 PP100, Kia from 72 to 70 PP100, and Hyundai from 74 to 71 PP100. Ford and Lincoln round out the top five with 83 and 84 PPH, respectively. Land Rover is most-improved over 2018, improving by 37 PP100, but they still sit second from last in the study at 123 PP100.

The J.D. Power IQS reflects only problems that have been reported by owners in the first three months of ownership. It is important to recognize that it does not claim to accurately predict long-term quality. Since the survey covers all systems on the car, offering the latest and greatest feature content can backfire for a manufacturer in IQS scores. A company offering more established technologies often has a superior chance of performing better.

For instance, Ford’s scores suffered due to customer perception and understanding issues when they offered the double-clutch sequential-manual transmissions in the Fiesta. That’s not to mention how they were destroyed by reports of issues with early versions of the MyTouch infotainment system.

The industry is constantly evolving in their efforts to improve their survey scores. Dave Sargent, Vice President of Global Automotive at J.D. Power said, “Automakers continue to make progress in areas like infotainment that attract a lot of consumer attention. However, some traditional problems crept up this year including paint imperfections, brake and suspension noises, engines not starting and the ‘check engine’ light coming on early in the ownership experience. Also, more people are having issues with their advanced driver assistance systems, which are critical for building consumer trust in future automated vehicles.”

It used to be that Buick and Lexus topped the charts. Within the industry, it was commonly understood that the older buyers of these brands were commonly less discerning and thus easier on the survey scores. As those brands sought a younger median buyer age and offer the latest technologies, they must step up to those buyers’ expectations.

Korean brands seem to be effectively reusing the playbook that the Japanese brands wrote when they came to North America. Initial quality, both perceived and actual, lagged the established contenders. But, with focused efforts, they rose to the top and became the benchmark for quality. While the IQS survey does not paint a complete picture of quality and reliability, it is an indicator of the progress of brands.

Everyone should be paying attention to the improvements the Chinese brands have been making as well. I was paying attention when they first started bringing cars to the North American International Auto Show. I remember looking around and underneath them back in 2006. The primitive design and assembly quality were laughable. That evolved into decent pseudo-copies of respected cars and is now at a point that they cannot be disregarded.

Before you say that you can’t even buy a Chinese car in the U.S. yet, just look at who received a Silver award for 2019 Plant Assembly Line Quality… General Motors’ Yantai Dongyue 2, China (North), who makes the Buick Envision for the U.S.

For a full rundown of J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study rankings, check out the website.


[Images: Genesis Motors; J.D. Power]

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46 Comments on “New Vehicle Quality Improvements Stall, Koreans Still on Top With J.D. Power...”

  • avatar

    Truth be told, nothing should go wrong in the first three months of ownership. Of all of the new cars I’ve purchased, mostly Japanese, there hasn’t been a single reason to bring it in that soon unless it was for scheduled maintenance.

    JD Power is flawed in that minor flaws and misunderstandings, like people trying to figure out Sync or Volvo’s system, factors into lower scores. What I, and I’m sure other buyers, care about is 3-4 years down the road when the warranty is gone and there’s still another year of payments left.

    But I guess these numbers look good for the upcoming round of data-skewed commercials…

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t you know you are supposed to lease so that what happens once it is out of warranty doesn’t matter :)

    • 0 avatar
      Jean-Pierre Sarti

      i agree with what you are saying but taking things as they are presented i am left asking : “Honda what happened to you?”

    • 0 avatar

      “Truth be told, nothing should go wrong in the first three months of ownership. Of all of the new cars I’ve purchased, mostly Japanese, there hasn’t been a single reason to bring it in that soon…”

      Although I admit I’m still the owner of an ’01 4Runner that never had a warranty issue, I owned many new cars previously, and have always experienced at least one problem, from the start, with every single one. With each problem, across different brands and dealers, I always heard the same excuses to avoid having to perform warranty work. So I feel the initial quality surveys are important, along with long-term reports. Problems may be few in number, at first, but there’s a good chance whatever the problem is, it won’t be fixed (without many unpleasant interactions with the dealer and a lack of concern from the manufacturer).

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        I had 2 brand new vehicles that had issues/problems in the first 3 months of ownership. A Type IV VW ‘squareback’ and a 1978 T-Bird.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          @Arthur Dailey: Me,too – an 02 Passat and 05 Odyssey.

          Both had problems in the first week, and the Odyssey ended up in lemon court. Total ownership time for both cars was 51 months combined – all of it awful. But at least the VW dealer handled things nicely; Honda, not so much.

    • 0 avatar

      The “Q” in IQS stands for quality – of which (short-term) reliability is one component.

      “Quality” also takes into account ergonomics/intuitiveness/design.

      If an automakers’ telematics/UI is difficult to use (even after having owned the vehicle for 3 months), that’s not something that can be corrected during the course of ownership/lease.

      Same thing applies if say, the driver’s seat is uncomfortable; doesn’t matter if the seat is reliable (meaning the power functions work and the leather/fabric is holding up) if it isn’t comfortable.

      That’s the reason why Cadillac has improved the UI on their CUE system a # of times and why they have even added physical controls for the most frequently used functions.

      Toyota and Lexus are not known to have one of the more intuitive telematics/UI in the industry.

      As for Honda and Acura – they seem to still be working out the kinks in their various newer powertrain components (which has also sunk their JDP VDS rankings).

      • 0 avatar

        Based on subribers experience of infotainment on the latest CR survey for ease of use and call making, Toyota was at the bottom of the rankings with the rest of the Japanese manufacturers.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, obviously Honda, Acura, and Subaru owners would disagree.

  • avatar
    Joe Enrico

    Interesting that BMW received platinum awards for plant assembly quality in Africa/Europe but their overall PP100 ranks below average. Maybe most BMWs sold don’t come from those plants.

  • avatar

    I remember when buyers complained to JDP about the Hummer’s fuel economy, which suggests… what?… individual/mass stupidity? What were these people expecting from a 5000-lb brick powered by a big V8?

    OTOH, I can understand how buyers would complain about Lexus’ infotainment system. It is the spawn of Satan, absolutely infuriating to use. Toyota needs to talk to Apple or somebody about user interfaces.

  • avatar

    I have a ’19 Camry, transmission died after only about 250km. Plus, the infotainment system freezes randomly, the new transmission shifts erratically at times, the speakers sometimes make a rattle (again, randomly) and the radar cruise a) can’t operate without the radar, and b) slams on the brakes hard when it approaches a slower vehicle (as opposed to a gentle slowing.) So, I guess I got 2/3 of all the problems from their KY plant…

  • avatar

    Whenever I go to a theater, I’m assaulted by the real people ads by Chevy touting their JD Power rankings over and over with the fine print stating that the vehicles in question are 5 model years old.

    I tune them out. Most of the “issues” are of the RTFM variety anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      Why do they persist with that line of adverts? I assume 97% of Americans would slap Potsch Boyd silly if given the opportunity…

    • 0 avatar

      In its 2018 brand dependability rankings, JD Power found that, based on data from owners of three-year-old vehicles, Chevrolet actually did rank higher than Toyota, Honda, and Ford, with the Equinox, Silverado, Traverse, and Malibu topping the heap in their respective categories. Thetruthaboutcars

    • 0 avatar

      One of the reasons I stopped going to the theater. On the rare occasion that I do, I keep my headphones in until the previews start. Paying to watch ads is infuriating.

  • avatar

    Hard to take this survey seriously when consumers today whine about a difficult-to-understand infotainment system and this then counts as ‘poor vehicle quality/reliability’.

    A survey like this will not keep me away from buying products from my preferred brand. There is still more to a car than 100% perfect reliability. In my experience as long as the motor, transmission, suspension, steering, headlights and brakes work I will consider the car reliable. Everything else is secondary and does not affect the safety or drivability of the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      “as long as the motor, transmission, suspension, steering, headlights and brakes work I will consider the car reliable.”

      That’s your right but you must live in a comfortable place if you don’t need your HVAC to function properly.
      Beyond what you wrote (and HVAC) there are additional important things to me. Door handle function, windows movement, hood release, wiper function, seat adjustment mechanism, seatbelt function, gauge function, longevity of door/trunk seals, and probably others I’m not thinking of.

      • 0 avatar


        You are also correct. However, I think some features such as seals, if they’re made out of rubber, will eventually corrode and fail. I think of them as a wear and tear item.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s more than “difficult-to-understand.”

      If changing a simple function takes 3 steps going thru the menu/UI, then it’s poorly designed and frustrating to use on a daily basis.

      Cadillac has made numerous improvements to its much-maligned CUE system,

      Same thing happened to BMW’s iDrive system; there were lots of complaints about its functionality/ease of use during its first iteration, but after making numerous changes/updates, became easier to use.

      • 0 avatar


        Such features are indeed of a poor design, but in my opinion this should not be labeled as a ‘quality/reliability’ issue. It’s a functionality issue.

        • 0 avatar

          Many of these companies claim to run ISO9001 systems. Usability and human interface design choices most certainly are part of that quality regime.

        • 0 avatar

          Poor design/engineering is an aspect of poor

          A seat can be reliable (meaning that everything works and is durable), but that doesn’t mean so much if it is uncomfortable due to poor design/engineering.

          If something doesn’t do its job/purpose well, then it’s not really quality no matter how durable it may be.

  • avatar

    I generally buy used cars so don’t care about this silly survey. However if I bought a brand new car and it required a trip back to the dealer within the first 3 months I would be screaming bloody murder.

    As cars have gotten more complicated understand their systems is become more and more critical. Dealers almost need a group of trainers to educate drivers on features and functions. Some kind of post purchase review. I only had one dealer do a good job in this area… ironically it was a VW Passat that began shedding parts badly after a few years. The sales guy went over pretty much every button and switch in the car, he opened every door and basically did an mini inspection to ensure everything was good (spare tire, sunroof, license plate, oil level, air pressure, etc) I was shocked at his attention to detail. Most places don’t even bother to wash the car before delivery. Guess this allows them to hide paint flaws easier.

    • 0 avatar

      Acura owners are screaming bloody murder as only the RDX is new and everything else Honda hand-me downs that are dropping in quality this decade.

    • 0 avatar

      I can speak for Audi vehicles – we have several in the family and after every purchase, a class was offered, sometimes for at least half a day, on how to use the MMI system, the virtual dashboard, and the safety tech. I think that’s the only way for people to properly use the tech because reading the f’n manual is totally out of the question!

  • avatar
    Greg Hamilton

    Dodge scores higher than both Lexus and Toyota. Take that Scotty Kilmer.

  • avatar

    HK infotainment, especially the Hyundai side (AVN) has commonly been regarded by most reviewers, as being one of the easier and more intuitive infotainment systems currently in production.

    The AVN 4 in my old 2017 sedan was plenty fine. AVN 5 in my GT is downright snappy. It DOES glitch out occasionally with mangled audio, or random system reboots though. Fortunately that’s about a once per month occurrence, on average.

    Usability though? Super easy to lean and use.

    Overall quality is good. 2017 sedan tight as a drum still, after 2.5 years and about 18,000 miles before I traded it.

    My GT is a louder car, but, no squeaks or rattles, and fit and finish are just as good.

    BTW speaking of crap software, WordPress is downright abhorrent on mobile. Sadly the site probably doesn’t have rhe capital to switch platforms.

    • 0 avatar

      Same thing for FCA’s UI – which probably explains why Dodge managed to rank higher than Lexus and Toyota (by now, any mechanical issues on the remaining Dodge models have long been worked out).

    • 0 avatar

      Until recently, I had been rather critical of JD Powers (JDP) survey results and how some manufacturers advertise the results. However, I recently received a JDP survey after I purchased a 2019 Kia Stinger in January. I also received an incredibly detailed (ten page & small print) buyer behavior and customer satisfaction survey from Maritz CX. I have now concluded these types of survey are of benefit to consumers and the automotive industry. Since these survey capture only initial impressions of new vehicles, I do not use JDP as my primary reference to determine my auto purchases. However, they provide buyers some insight into initial build performance and the automotive industry critical feedback-the good, bad and ugly.

      Love my new Stinger and my 1963 Buick Riviera!

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    My Hyundai was great over the first 90 days. It was much later that they dropped me the nice note about them potentially forgetting to get the metal shavings out of the motor, but hey, at least the infotainment is solid!

  • avatar

    J.D. Power’s surveys are an absolute joke and snake oil; when it comes to actual vehicle reliability, dependability and durability, they effectively measure NOTHING.

    J.D. Power is an entity that essentially shakes down manufacturers for cash, and in turn, gives them awards and accolades that they can distribute to their dealer network and hang on the walls, etc.

    That notwithstanding, Korean vehicles, whether Hyundai or KIA, are both approximately 398x more durable and reliable than any vehicle that the manufacturer of rolling dumpster fires, Guangzhou-Guadalajara Motors (GM) sells, and the Koreans have surpassed the likes of Nissan and Mitsubishi by a wide margin, and closed the gap considerably with Honda (Honda is reeeeaaalllly backsliding lately – look up fuel oil dilution problems, among many others, in their new gen piles of excrement, as well as transmission issues).

    • 0 avatar

      Scotty, is that you?

    • 0 avatar

      While one may quibble w/ JDP’s methodology, the insinuation that automakers can “game” their rankings is overblown.

      Sure, automakers pay to get access to the data (they also do so to get access to Consumer Reports’ data), but that doesn’t have any impact on where they are ranked in the various JDP surveys.

      So GM “pays” for Chevy to be ranked rather high in the VDS, but doesn’t pay for Cadillac (below average)?

      Or Ford “pays” to be ranked high in the IQS, but their payment doesn’t equate to good ranking for VDS?

      Did Toyota/Lexus “pay” to be ranked at/near the top for the VDS, but not so much for the IQS?

      If anything, it’s brands like Volvo, Ram, Fiat, Land Rover, etc. that need to “pay” to improve their rankings (on both JDP and CR), but year after year they remain at/near the bottom.

      And for both JDP and CR, Honda and Acura have both seen a slide.

  • avatar

    Leasing a 2016 Buick Encore now for 3 years (in August) absolutely no issues at all except one intermittent comfort light in dash that has self corrected itself, I’m also very picky with my vehicles even though an old man of 70, oh! it’s made in Korea also!

  • avatar

    I also don’t trust a 3 month window to completely determine how reliable a vehicle could be in 3-5 years.

    It’s such a stupid metric to go by.

    I will say that Hyundai and Kia vehicles are right up there with Toyota. I recently rented a 2018 Kia Optima and it was a really good car. Lots of pep and a very very smooth transmission and a nice quiet smooth ride. The interior quality was nicely fitted and the body seemed really tight. The quality of materials was decent, but the door panels and dash felt like it came straight out of a Rubbermaid product. Still the buttons, and controls all felt good without an overall cheapness to them.

    The doors felt nice and solids upon closing, unlike the latest Toyota Camry doors that all sound like a tin can with ZERO sound deadening.

    Not sure how well their cars will hold up long term, but so far they’re vehicles are looking and feeling much better than ever before.

    Honda has slipped in quality in the past few years, they used to make wonderful quality cars back in the 90’s, but the 2000’s they seem to have gotten cheaper feeling and some of their cars just don’t feel as nice inside like they used too. Plus they all ride like crap and are still rough riding over bad roads.

    My 17 Impala has almost 70,000 miles on it now and it has been one solid reliable vehicle. I’ve had no problems with it and it still wows me every time I drive it. To say that GM is crap, or Ford is crap is non sense.

    It all depends on the model. The domestics don’t have a great track record on building vehicles that are reliable in each segment. Sure they might do great at building trucks, and they might make 1 or 2 good sedans, but they’re compacts and sub compacts are garbage. It’s that inconsistency of not build truly reliable and dependable products in every segment has doomed some of their brands.

    At this point in time with modern manufacturing, there new cars are still much more reliable than they were even just 10 years ago. American vehicles were mostly cheaply made and unreliable to a certain extent back in the 80’s, 90’s and early to mid 2000’s, but as of today, their latest models are on par with the industry in terms of quality and reliability.

    At the same time, modern cars are boring to me and lack that traditional old world heavy duty build quality of cars from the 50’s-80’s.

    Going for a drive in my 87 Caddy Brougham, or my 64 Caddy, or my 78 Lincoln Continental, cures all of those problems. There’s nothing like closing a door on an old Caddy or Lincoln, the old tank like build quality is totally gone in modern vehicles. Too much plastic, composites, light weight materials that just suck the feeling of solidarity right out of the modern plastic rolling hunks of disposable tech/machinery.

    • 0 avatar

      My 97 Pontiac GP 3.8 still “wows” me, never had any major issues,reolaced the air conditioner compressor,and block resistor, alternator, window regulators, that’s it 177k miles, original plugs and wires! 22 years old!you want satisfaction, I got your satisfaction!

  • avatar

    “The Biggest Car Buying Joke in History, J.D. Power Awards”

    Power should publish how much revenue they get from each manufacturer they rate so they can be tracked w/ awards

  • avatar

    So a majority here ignore or downplay the results of this JD Power survey. Yet statistically if the wide variance in number of problems between manufacturers is much the same year over year (and who says they are all to do with the ease of use of infotainment systems anyway?), there must be something to it? After all, every one of the manufacturers goes out of their way to tell you to rate them highly on any survey…

    But the main purpose in posting is to suggest a topic for TTAC along the lines of; “which surveys have validity in your mind”. “Only surveys where the results are readily available to see for all can be included, links required too”

  • avatar

    Three months doesn’t even cut it!

    If I get a call from D.J. Powerless in September asking about my Accord, I’ll ask them to call me in June, 2022 to get my opinion, then hang up!

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Has anyone shown the result of J.D. Powers, Consumer Reports, and True Delta at the same time points? I have a sneaky feeling that anything ‘Murican built with a frame and/or a V-8 will score quite well. For the rest; Japanese all the way. To be fair, and not forgetten, some of the Europeans may score well too. Than again, this is TTAC so test methodology will be questioned and we will be regaled with anecdotal stories of big 3 vehicles that went 300,00 miles with just oil changes and one set of new brake pads.

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