2018 New-Vehicle Quality Improves; Genesis, Kia, Hyundai Lead the Field in Brand Rankings

Joseph Dobrian | Jun 20, 2018
New-vehicle quality—measured by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) during the first 90 days of ownership—is at its highest level ever, having improved by 4% in the past year, according to the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS).SM Additionally, the Korean trio of Genesis, Kia, and Hyundai achieve a clean sweep of the top three nameplate rankings this year, leading the charge in terms of overall brand quality.

The level of quality of today’s new vehicles reflects four consecutive years of improvement. In this year’s study, quality improves across six of the eight categories measured, with 21 of the 31 brands ranked in the study improving their quality from 2017. The industry average of 93 PP100 compares with 97 PP100 in 2017.


2018 U.S. Initial Quality Study“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.”

Key Findings

Following are some key findings of the 2018 study:

  • Of the eight categories measured, Vehicle Exterior now stands at 15.2 PP100, compared with 16.6 PP100 in 2017. This represents the highest improvement of any category in the 2018 study. Improvements include less wind noise and fewer paint imperfections. Significant year-over-year improvements also occur in the Seats (8.0 vs. 8.7 PP100) and Vehicle Interior (14.3 vs. 14.7 PP100) categories.
  • Of all models included in the study, the Porsche 911 achieves the best overall score at 48 PP100. This is also the lowest problem incidence ever recorded in this generation of the study (2013-2018).
  • All domestic automakers show faster improvement than the industry overall. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (7 PP100 improvement), Ford Motor Co. (5 PP100), and General Motors (5 PP100) all outpace the industry average rate of improvement (4 PP100).
  • Audio/communication/entertainment/vavigation (ACEN) remains the most problematic category for new-vehicle buyers. However, this area shows improvement for the third consecutive year, with the greatest improvement found in built-in voice-recognition systems.
  • However, problems with driver-assistance systems increase, as automakers add more advanced driver-assistance systems. The level is still low (3.5 PP100 on average), but has been increasing by about 20% annually 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, Kia, Hyundai Lead Field

Genesis ranks highest in overall initial quality among brands, with a score of 68 PP100. Kia (72) ranks second, and Hyundai (74) ranks third. Porsche (79) ranks fourth, and Ford (81) ranks fifth. Mazda is the most improved brand, with buyers experiencing 25 PP100 fewer than in 2017. Other brands with strong improvement scores include Mitsubishi (20 fewer PP100), Cadillac (15 fewer), Infiniti (15 fewer), Hyundai (14 fewer), and Lexus (14 fewer).

The parent company receiving the most segment-level awards for its various models is Ford Motor Co. (five awards), followed by Hyundai Motor (four), and BMW, General Motors, and Nissan Motor (three each).

Ford models that rank highest in their respective segments are the Ford Expedition; Ford Mustang; Ford F-Series Super Duty; Lincoln Continental; and Lincoln MKC. Highest-ranking Hyundai models include the Genesis G90; Hyundai Tucson; Kia Rio; and the Kia Sorento. Leading General Motors models include the Buick Envision; Chevrolet Silverado 1500; and Chevrolet Silverado HD. Other highest-ranking models in their segments include the BMW 4 Series; BMW X1; BMW X6; Nissan Altima; Nissan Frontier; Nissan Maxima; Acura ILX; Dodge Grand Caravan; Mercedes-Benz GLA; and Toyota Corolla.

Among vehicle assembly plants, Toyota wins the Platinum Plant Quality Award for highest initial quality for the Lexus LX and Toyota Land Cruiser SUVs it assembles at its Yoshiwara, Japan, plant. Plant quality awards are based solely on defects and malfunctions and exclude design-related problems.

Consumer Tips

Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:

  • The maxim “Nobody makes a bad car or truck” is pretty much true: It’s hard to go wrong with any modern automaker. That said, some brands (and models) clearly offer a more satisfying early ownership experience than others, so do your research, and choose carefully.
  • Determine the areas in which problems most frequently occur. Are they relevant to the way you will use your vehicle?
  • Stay current with automakers’ announcements of improvements in their vehicles, and their efforts to remedy problems.

About the Study

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 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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