Led by Korean affiliates Genesis, Kia and Hyundai, new-vehicle quality improves for a fourth consecutive year to reach its best-ever level in the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Initial Quality Study.
Mazda is the most-improved brand in the survey, which shows an overall 4% decrease in the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) during the first 90 days of ownership, the market-research firm says in a news release. A lower score indicates higher quality.
With 21 of the 31 brands included in the study improving from 2017, quality rises across six of the eight categories measured this year, J.D. Power says. The industry average of 93 PP100 is 4 PP100 better than in 2017.
“There’s no question that most automakers are doing a great job of listening to consumers and are producing vehicle quality of the highest caliber,” says Dave Sargent, vice president-Global Automotive at J.D. Power. “That said, some vehicle owners are still finding problems. As vehicles become more complex and automated, it is critical that consumers have complete confidence in automakers’ ability to deliver fault-free vehicles.”
Genesis, the Hyundai Motor Group’s luxury brand, ranks highest in overall initial quality with a score of 68 PP100. Hyundai affiliate Kia (72 PP100) ranks second and the Hyundai brand (74 PP100) ranks third. This is the first time three Korean brands top the overall ranking, and 2018 marks the fourth consecutive year Kia is the highest-ranking mass-market brand.
Led by the Porsche 911, which earned the best score of any individual model with 48 PP100 – the lowest level of the fourth and current generation of the study first published in 1987 – the Porsche brand (79 PP100) ranks fourth and Ford (81 PP100) is fifth.
After Mazda (see CX-5 interior below), whose owners reported 25 fewer PP100 than in 2017, the most-improved brands are Mitsubishi (up 20 PP100), Cadillac (up 15 PP100), Infiniti (up 15 PP100), Hyundai (up 14 PP100) and Lexus (up 14 PP100).
The Detroit Three automakers all show greater improvement than the industrywide rate of 4 PP100, led by FCA US (up 7 PP100) and followed by Ford and General Motors (both up 5 PP100).
The automaker receiving the most model-level awards for its various brands is Ford, with five models ranking highest in their respective segments: the Ford Expedition, Ford Mustang, Ford Super Duty; Lincoln Continental, and Lincoln MKC.
Ford is followed by Hyundai Motor Group, with four models ranking highest in their segments: the Genesis G90, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Rio, and Kia Sorento.
Automakers each with three models ranking No.1 in their segments are BMW (4-Series, X1 and X6); General Motors (Buick Envision, Chevrolet Silverado and Chevrolet Silverado HD); and Nissan (Altima, Frontier and Maxima).
Other models ranking highest in their respective segments are the Acura ILX, Dodge Grand Caravan, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Toyota Corolla, J.D. Power says.
The consultancy based its 2018 U.S. Initial Quality Study on responses from 75,712 purchasers and lessees of new ʼ18-model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership from February through May. They responded to a 233-question battery organized into eight vehicle categories designed to help manufacturers identify problems and improve their products.
Of the eight categories measured, the survey shows vehicle exterior improves the most (15.2 PP100 vs. 16.6 PP100 in 2017). Improvements include less wind noise and fewer paint imperfections. Year-over-year gains also occur in the seats (8.0 PP100 vs. 8.7 PP100) and vehicle interior (14.3 PP100 vs. 14.7 PP100) categories.
Consumers reported 3.5 PP100 with driver-assistance systems, a level that has risen about 20% a year for the past three years.
“As we look to the future, avoiding problems with safety and driver-assistance technology is critical,” Sargent says. “In an era of increasingly automated vehicles, vehicle owners have to be comfortable using foundational technologies like lane-keep assistance and collision avoidance. Otherwise, automakers will not easily overcome consumer resistance to fully automated (driverless) cars.”
Infotainment problems are decreasing: audio/communication/entertainment/navigation remains the most problematic category for new-vehicle owners. This area, however, has improved for a third consecutive year, led by fewer problems with built-in voice-recognition systems.
J.D. Power honors Toyota’s Yoshiwara, Japan, plant, which produces the Lexus LX and Toyota Land Cruiser, with its Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing models with the fewest defects or malfunctions. Plant quality awards exclude design-related problems.
Toyota’s Cambridge North (Canada) plant, which produces the Toyota Corolla, and Georgetown 3 (KY) plant, which produces the Lexus ES, each receives the Gold Plant Quality Award in a tie for the Americas region. Earning the Gold Plant Quality Award for the Europe/Africa region is BMW’s Dingolfing 02 (Germany) plant, which produces the 6-Series and 7-Series.