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New Vehicle Quality Improvements Stall, Koreans Still on Top With J.D. Power

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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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