Korean brands Kia and Hyundai take the No.2 and No.4 spots in the 2015 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, besting all Japanese brands, which collectively fell below the industry average for the first time.
“For so long, Japanese brands have been viewed by many as the gold standard in vehicle quality,” Renee Stephens, vice president-U.S. automotive quality for J.D. Power, says in a statement. “While the Japanese automakers continue to make improvements, we’re seeing other brands, most notably the Korean makes, really accelerating the rate of improvement.”
Germany’s Porsche leads the IQS for the third year in a row, with a score of 80 problems per 100 vehicles.
Kia follows with 86 problems per 100 vehicles, up from a sixth place ranking of 106 pp 100 in the 2014 study.
Jaguar finishes in third place on this year’s survey (93 pp 100), down from the No.2 spot in 2014, while Kia’s sister brand Hyundai repeats its 2014 fourth-place showing, with a 2015 score of 96 pp 100.
Nissan’s Infiniti luxury marque is No.5, the highest-ranking Japanese brand with a score of 97 pp 100, up from 128 in 2014 and just edging out Germany’s BMW, which had a 2015 score of 99 pp 100.
General Motors’ Chevrolet is the highest-ranking domestic brand, with a score of 101 pp 100, followed by Ford’s Lincoln with 103. Both brands improve their scores from last year.
Lexus and Toyota brands, often in the top five in the IQS, tie for ninth place with GM’s Buick, each scoring 104 pp 100.
The industry average in this year’s IQS, a measure of problems reported during the first 90 days of vehicle ownership, is 112, up 3% from 116 in the 2014 study.
Ford, Ram, Honda and Mercedes are other brands ranking above the industry average.
Falling below the industry average, in descending order, are Audi, GMC, Dodge, Volvo, Nissan, Cadillac, Mini, Mazda, Volkswagen, Scion, Acura, Mitsubishi, Land Rover, Jeep, Subaru, Chrysler, Smart and Fiat.
Fiat was in last place in the 2014 IQS as well, but as somewhat of a consolation improved its score sharply, from 206 pp 100 vehicles last year to 161 this year.
Audi, Cadillac, GMC and Volvo had placed above the industry average last year.
As a group, the Japanese brands improve 2 pp 100 vehicles to 114. But that isn’t enough to top the Koreans’ collective score of 90 pp 100 vehicles or the Europeans at 113.
The Detroit brands also had 114 pp 100 vehicles, equaling the Japanese for only the second time in the 29-year history of the study.
Stephens says this year’s leading brands not only stepped up the pace of improvements to existing models, but also launched new vehicles with higher quality and more intuitive designs. The latter is noteworthy, because for the third consecutive year consumers responding to the survey report the most problems with voice recognition and Bluetooth pairing.
J.D. Power says voice-recognition systems can account for 10 or more problems per 100 vehicles.
The research firm also doles out model and plant awards as part of the IQS.
This year, General Motors, Hyundai, Nissan and VW each won four model awards.
The Chevy Malibu took top honors as the least problem-prone midsize car, edging out the Kia Optima and Toyota Camry.
Other winners include the Nissan Sentra as top compact car, the BMW 5-Series as the top-ranking midsize premium car and the Ford Super Duty as the top large heavy-duty pickup.
BMW’s Rosslyn, South Africa, plant took the platinum award as the best-performing assembly plant in the world. J.D. Power says there were just 15 problems per 100 units of the 3-Series built there.
By region, Toyota’s Cambridge North plant in Cambridge, ON, Canada, home to the Corolla compact car, took gold honors in North and South America with a 17 pp 100 score.
In the Asia-Pacific, Kia’s Kwangju Plant 1 in South Korea won gold, with a 17 pp 100 score for the Soul model.
After the Rosslyn, South Africa, plant, BMW’s Dingolfing No.1 plant in Germany was the next-best in the Europe and Africa region, with 21 problems per 100 units of the 3-, 4- and 5-Series models produced there.
For this year’s IQS, J.D. Power says it received 84,000 responses to its 233-question survey between February and May 2015, down from 86,000 in 2014.