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6 Most Improved Auto Brands in the 2015 Initial Quality Study

6 Most Improved Auto Brands in the 2015 Initial Quality Study

By Philly Murtha,

Overall, the quality gap between premium and non-premium brands is narrowing, according to the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Initial Quality StudySM (IQS). Most of the major improvements in this year's IQS are from the non-premium nameplates. In fact, only one premium brand, Infiniti, is among the six most improved in the nameplate rankings this year.

Korean automaker Kia, which ranks second among all 33 brands included in the 2015 IQS, also is one of the six most-improved brands, while Japan's former initial quality leaders, Toyota--which improved slightly this year--and Lexus and Honda, score close to industry average in this year's IQS.

Listed below are the six car brands that achieve the greatest reduction in reported problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), where a lower PP100 score reflects higher vehicle quality. In spite of the vast improvement, four of the most improved brands are still below industry average (112 PP100) in initial quality, while two rank among the top five brands in the industry. The most-improved car brands in the 2015 IQS are listed in reverse order, from least improved to most improved.

Scion improves its IQS score by 16 PP100 this year, tied for fifth-most improved with Mazda among all brands included in the study. For 2015, the xB returns with a new rearview camera, the tC coupe now offers paddle shifters and a bright orange/black limited-edition variant, and the tiny iQ carries over unchanged. (The xD hatchback has been discontinued.) The FR-S, by far the most aggressively styled and tuned ride among the Scion ranks, has a revised suspension, mild styling enhancements, and standard automatic headlights.

Mazda also improves its performance in the Initial Quality Study by 16 PP100 this year, tying for the fifth-most improved nameplate with a score of 123 PP100 vs. 139 PP100 in the 2014 IQS. Mazda is the only independent automaker to receive a segment award for one of its models--the 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata is the highest-ranked Compact Sporty Car in the 2015 IQS.

Mitsubishi improves its score in this year's study by 19 PP100 to 126 PP100 from 145 PP100 in the 2014 IQS. Mitsubishi ties with Acura for the 26th rank position overall this year. In future product news, Mitsubishi is making a big push to feature multimedia and telematics systems in its models, while introducing a redesigned Outlander for 2016, two plug-in hybrids, and perhaps a large SUV.

Not only is Kia the top-performing non-premium brand in the 2015 IQS, it also ranks second overall with a score of 86 PP100--an improvement of 20 PP100 from last year, and only 6 PP100 higher than Porsche, this year's initial quality leader. Kia also receives two segment-level quality awards for its Kia Soul (Compact MPV) and Kia Sorento (Midsize SUV). The Soul is also among the top 10 most problem-free models overall, according to the 2015 IQS.

Improving its score by 31 PP100, Infiniti moves up to the No. 5 rank position in this year's IQS--a gain of 18 rank positions from last year. Nissan Group's premium brand receives two segment-level quality awards, for its QX70 (Midsize Premium SUV) and for the QX80 (Large Premium SUV).

Although Fiat ranks last among all brands included in the 2015 IQS, it reduces its problem count by 45 PP100 from last year. Fiat freshens trim levels on its 500 lineup for 2015 and replaces an instrument cluster with a new 7-in.TFT digital display that identifies driving speed, fuel economy, and trip data.

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