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J.D. Power Releases 2015 Initial Quality Survey

  • J.D. Power confirms what we’ve all seen: Korean cars are getting better and better
  • Domestic brands’ quality now level with Japanese
  • The whole industry has improved

The latest J.D. Power Initial Quality Study has been released, and it has some intriguing results. That said, the number one spot was retained by Porsche for the third year in a row. In fact, Porsche is a regular high achiever in most J.D. Power studies. It’s among the more mainstream brands where we see a seismic shift.

Korea has overtaken Japan, and virtually everyone has upped their game. But it’s the rate of improvement where Hyundai and Kia have widened the gap compared to the rest. J.D. Power’s methodology takes quality problems per 100 (PP100) cars reported by 84,000 owners or lessees of 2015 model year vehicles within the first 90 days. For example, Porsche scored 80 PP100. Kia came in second with 86 PP100, which was the best score for a nonpremium make in the study’s 29-year history, leading Jaguar (93), Hyundai (95) and Infiniti (97).

“Leading companies are not only stepping up the pace of improvements on existing models, but are also working up front to launch vehicles with higher quality and more intuitive designs,” said Renee Stephens, J.D. Power’s vice president of U.S. automotive quality.

Industry analyst Michelle Krebs also noted that what’s good news for Hyundai and Kia is also good news for buyers: “Their incentives and inventories are rising.”

Putting these brands into territorial groups, we find Korea with an average score of 90, followed not by Japan — surprisingly, and despite a 2 percent improvement over 2014 — but by Europe with 113, then Japan and the United States both with 114. Toyota and Honda are still above average, but brands such as Mitsubishi, Scion and Subaru lower the overall Japanese score.

The rest of the top 10 were BMW (99), Chevrolet (101), Lincoln (103), Lexus (104) and Toyota (104). The bottom three were Chrysler (143), smart (154) and FIAT (161). There’s a silver lining for Chrysler because its 300 still won highest-ranked Large Car. For anyone looking at a midsize sedan, consider the Chevrolet Malibu, Kia Optima and Toyota Camry — in that order. And there’s probably a feeling of smugness in the BMW boardroom at the moment, since the 2 Series, 4 Series and 5 Series each took the best score in their classes.

In terms of tech, there are still some glitches with voice recognition, which is fairly understandable given the relative youth of the software. This increased from 57 percent in 2013 to 67 percent.

With almost every new car coming with Bluetooth, you might think manufacturers would have the pairing process between car and device down to a fine art by now. But no, J.D. Power reports that 10 issues per 100 cars still exist.

What it means to you: This study is one way of keeping car companies competitive, and the ultimate winner is always the consumer.

Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More about Colin Ryan

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