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Fewer Problems Reported with New Vehicles in J.D. Power 2015 Initial Quality Study (IQS)

Fewer Problems Reported with New Vehicles in J.D. Power 2015 Initial Quality Study (IQS)

By Philly Murtha,

Korean Brands Lead the Industry in New Car Quality

The U.S. auto industry is back on track as initial quality of new vehicles this year improves from the 2014 decline in overall new-vehicle quality, according to the J.D. Power 2015 U.S. Initial Quality StudySM (IQS). The study measures problems experienced by some 84,000 new-vehicle buyers or lessees during the first 90 days of ownership.

J.D. Power evaluates initial quality based on the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), thus a lower score represents higher quality. This year, the industry experiences a 3% year-over-year improvement in initial quality, averaging 112 PP100 from 116 PP100 in 2014 when new-vehicle quality dipped from 113 PP100 in 2013. The IQS was enhanced in 2013 to better measure problems with new technologies and features being offered in new vehicles.

Korean Brands Lead Industry; Kia Leads All Non-Premium Nameplates
Big news this year is that Korean brands lead the industry in averaging the fewest problems per 100 vehicles--only 90 PP100, which is 11 fewer PP100 than in the 2014 study. Kia and Hyundai nameplates rank among the top five brands in initial quality this year. In addition, Kia, for the first time in the study's 29-year history, leads all non-premium nameplates in initial quality.

The Korean brands outperform the Japanese and U.S.-based, or domestic, brands as well. It is also noteworthy that for the first time, the European brands (113 P100) outperform Japanese and domestic brands' average quality score (both average 114 PP100). Among all nameplates in the study, European luxury brand Porsche continues to set the quality bar, as for a third consecutive year it ranks highest in initial quality, receiving an average score of 80 PP100 in the 2015 IQS.

Japanese Brands Fall below Industry Average for First Time
Although the Japanese brands' average score improves by 2 PP100 this year, the lower problem score was not enough to keep pace with the industry's overall improvement, which means Japanese brands fall below the industry average for the first time in the history of the U.S. Initial Quality Study. Only four of 10 Japanese nameplates included in the study post fewer problems in 2015 than in 2014.

"For so long, Japanese brands have been viewed by many as the gold standard in vehicle quality," said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. Automotive at J.D. Power, who notes that the Korean makes are really accelerating the rate of improvement. "They're stepping up the improvements on existing models, but are also working up front to launch vehicles with higher quality."

Technologies Such as Voice Recognition, Bluetooth Pairing are Still Trouble Spots
Two key technology issues continue to trouble new-vehicle owners. For a third consecutive year, voice recognition--or hands-free technology--and Bluetooth pairing for smartphones top the problem list. This is noteworthy since more than two-thirds (67%) of owners indicate having voice recognition in their new vehicle in 2015--up from 57% in 2013. Stephens said that today's smartphones are creating high expectations for consumers on how well technology should work, and automakers are struggling to match the fast pace of changing smartphone technology in their new vehicles.

2015 Initial Quality Study Rankings
At the brand level, Porsche (80 PP100) and Kia (86 PP100) rank highest among all nameplates included in the 2015 Initial Quality Study. Kia reduces its average PP100 score by a significant 20 PP100. Rounding out the top five in the nameplate quality rankings are Jaguar (93 PP100), Hyundai (95 PP100), and Infiniti (97 PP100), the latter of which is one of the most-improved brands in the study, improving its score by 31 PP100 from 2014.

Ten other nameplates with better-than-industry-average PP100 scores this year are, in rank order are: BMW, Chevrolet, Lincoln, Lexus, Toyota, Buick, Ford, Ram, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz.

At the corporate level, four different automakers receive four model-level initial quality awards in the 26 car and light-truck (SUV, MPV, Van, Pickup) segments. They are, in alphabetical order: General Motors; Hyundai Motor Co.; Nissan Motor Co.; and Volkswagen AG.

In addition, BMW and Toyota Motor Corp. each receive three model-level awards, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and Ford Motor Company earn two. Mazda receives one model-level award in this year's Initial Quality Study.

For complete rankings of all brands, as well as a list of the models that receive new-vehicle quality awards in their respective segments, visit

Additional Research:

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