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J.D. Power: New-Vehicle Initial Quality Improves Again

June 21, 2018

COSTA MESA, Calif. — New-vehicle quality improved for the fourth consecutive year, rising 4% from 2017 to the best level ever recorded, according to  J.D. Power’s 2018 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS).

Initial quality is measured by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) during the first 90 days of ownership, with a lower score reflecting higher quality. In this year’s study, quality improved across six of the eight categories measured, with 21 of the 31 brands included in the study improving their quality from 2017. 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,” said Dave Sargent, vice president of 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.”

The following are some key findings of the 2018 study:

  • Most vehicle areas improve: Of the eight categories measured, vehicle exterior improves the most, now at 15.2 PP100 vs. 16.6 PP100 in 2017. Improvements include less wind noise and fewer paint imperfections. Significant year-over-year improvements also occur in the seats (8.0 PP100 vs. 8.7 PP100) and vehicle interior (14.3 PP100 vs. 14.7 PP100) categories.
  • Porsche 911 posts best score of any model: The Porsche 911 has the lowest overall problem level (48 PP100) of any model this year. This is also the lowest level recorded in this generation of the study (2013-2018). The U.S. Initial Quality Study, which was first published in 1987, is currently in its fourth generation.
  • All domestic automakers improve faster than the industry: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (7 PP100 improvement), Ford Motor Company (5 PP100 improvement), and General Motors (5 PP100 improvement) all outpace the industry average rate of improvement (4 PP100).
  • Infotainment problems are decreasing: Audio/Communication/Entertainment/Navigation (ACEN) remains the most problematic category for new-vehicle owners. However, this area has improved for the third consecutive year, led by fewer problems with built-in voice recognition systems.
  • Globalization of auto industry continues: Vehicles in the 2018 study are manufactured in 25 countries, 11 of which weren’t present in the study five years ago. Those 11 countries include Brazil, China, Finland, India, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Serbia, Spain, Thailand, and Turkey. The other 14 countries include Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Mexico, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • Increasing problems with driver assistance systems: As automakers add more advanced driver assistance systems to their vehicles, more consumers are experiencing problems. The level is still low (3.5 PP100 on average), but it has been increasing by 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 said. “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.”

Genesis ranked highest in overall initial quality with a score of 68 PP100. Kia (72 PP100) ranked second and Hyundai (74 PP100) ranked third. This is the first time three Korean brands are at the top of the overall ranking, and it is the fourth consecutive year that Kia is the highest ranking mass-market brand. Porsche (79 PP100) ranked fourth and Ford (81 PP100) ranks fifth.

Mazda is the most-improved brand, with owners reporting 25 PP100 fewer problems than in 2017. Other brands with strong improvements include Mitsubishi (20 PP100 improvement), Cadillac (15 PP100 improvement), Infiniti (15 PP100 improvement), Hyundai (14 PP100 improvement) and Lexus (14 PP100 improvement).

The parent company that received the most model-level awards for its various brands was Ford Motor Co. (five awards), followed by Hyundai Motor Group (four), and BMW, General Motors and Nissan (three each).

  • Ford Motor Company models that ranked highest in their respective segments were the Ford Expedition, Ford Mustang, Ford Super Duty, Lincoln Continental, and Lincoln MKC.
  • Hyundai Motor Group models that ranked highest in their segments were the Genesis G90, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Rio, and Kia Sorento.
  • General Motors models that ranked highest in their segments were the Buick Envision, Chevrolet Silverado, and Chevrolet Silverado HD.
  • BMW models that ranked highest in their segments were the 4 Series, X1, and X6.
  • Nissan models that ranked highest in their segments were the Altima, Frontier, and Maxima.

Other models that ranked highest in their respective segments were the Acura ILX, Dodge Grand Caravan, Mercedes-Benz GLA and Toyota Corolla.

Additionally, Toyota Motor Corp.’s Yoshiwara plant (Japan), which produces the Lexus LX and Toyota Land Cruiser, received the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing models with the fewest defects or malfunctions.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Cambridge North (Canada) plant, which produces the Toyota Corolla, and Georgetown 3 (Ky.) plant, which produces the Lexus ES, each received the Gold Plant Quality Award in a tie for the Americas region. BMW Group’s Dingolfing 02 (Germany) plant, which produces the BMW 6 Series and BMW 7 Series, received the Gold Plant Quality Award for the Europe/Africa region.

The 2018 U.S. Initial Quality Study is based on responses from 75,712 purchasers and lessees of new 2018 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study is based on a 233-question battery organized into eight vehicle categories and designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate the identification of problems and drive product improvement. The study was fielded from February through May 2018.

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