Korean brands ?widen? quality gap between automakers

Korean brands 'widen' quality gap between automakers



J.D. Power just released its 2015 Initial Quality Study ratings and results, and it seems Korean brands are continuing to improve while other more well-known brands may be feeling the impact of recent recalls.

With impressive year-over-year improvement, the Korean brands "continue to widen the quality gap with other automakers," J.D. Power reported, while Japanese nameplates have fallen below industry average for the first time in 29 years.

"This is a clear shift in the quality landscape," said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power. "For so long, Japanese brands have been viewed by many as the gold standard in vehicle quality. While the Japanese automakers continue to make improvements, we're seeing other brands, most notably Korean makes, really accelerating the rate of improvement. 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."

The study takes a look at problems experienced by vehicle owners during the first 90 days of ownership, and initial quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.

The industry as a whole enjoyed a 3 percent year-over-year increase in initial quality, bringing the average to 112 PP100, compared to 116 last year.

Porsche once again ranked the highest in initial quality for the third year in a row with a score of 80 PP100, which marks a 20 point improvement from last year.

Kia, one of the Korean brands cited that is improving, came next with a score of 86 PP100. J.D. Power pointed out this is the first time in the study's history that Kia came out on top for non-premium makes.

Jaguar (93 PP100), Hyundai (95 PP100) and Infiniti (97 PP100) rounded out the top five nameplates.

Infiniti is also one of the most improved brands this year, as it lowered its problem score by 33 points from 2014.

Korean Brands Gaining Steam

There were definitely a few shakeups in the study this year, namely the shift between Korean and Japanese brands.

Korean brands led the industry in quality by the widest margin even, said J.D. Power, with an average of 90 PP100. This is up 11 points from 2014.

Interestingly, as the Japanese brands experience some difficulty due to the recent Takata airbag recalls,  for the first time in the study, European brands surpassed Japanese brands in quality with a score or 113 PP100. Japanese brands were given a score of 114 PP100, equal with domestic nameplates.

"Although Japanese brands overall experience a 2 PP100 improvement from 2014, this has proven insufficient to keep pace with the industry, causing Japanese makes overall to fall below industry average for the first time in the 29-year history of the U.S. Initial Quality Study," J.D. Power reported.

In fact, only four of the 10 Japanese brands included in the study posted an improvement.

Problem Spots for Quality

According to the study, technology continues be a trouble spot for the industry in terms of quality.

For the third year in a row, entertainment and connectivity systems are the most problem-prone areas. And voice recognition and Bluetooth pairing present the most issues.

In fact, for the majority of the models in the study that have voice recognition systems, that tacks another 10 PP100 for those models related to that feature.

"Smartphones have set high consumer expectations of how well technology should work, and automakers are struggling to match that success in their new vehicles," said Stephens. "However, we are seeing some OEMs make important improvements along the way. What's clear is that they can't afford to wait for the next generation of models to launch before making important updates to these systems."

Following is the full breakdown of model awards from the 2015 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study:

General Motors
    Chevrolet Equinox (tie)
    Chevrolet Malibu
    Chevrolet Silverado 1500
    Chevrolet Spark

Hyundai Motor Co.
    Hyundai Accent
    Hyundai Tucson
    Kia Sorento
    Kia Soul

Nissan Motor Co.
    Infiniti QX70
    Infiniti QX80
    Nissan Sentra
    Nissan Quest

Volkswagen AG
    Audi Q3
    Porsche 911
    Porsche Boxster
    Porsche Macan

BMW
    BMW 2 Series
    BMW 4 Series
    BWM 5 Series

Toyota Motor Corp.
    Lexus LS
    Toyota Tacoma
    Toyota Sequoia

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
    Chrysler 300
    Dodge Challenger

Ford Motor Co.
    Ford Escape (tie)
    Ford F-Series Super Duty

Mazda
    Mazda MX-5 Miata