If one were to go around and ask people what countries make the most reliable cars the typical response would probably be Japan, closely followed by America or Germany. JD Power begs to differ.
If you were to go out on the street and ask the average American which auto manufacturers made the most reliable vehicles, most people would likely claim that Japanese cars were the most reliable followed by German and American vehicles, and lastly cars from other countries such as Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
But, according to the results of this year's JD Power's Initial Quality Survey (IQS) the average consumer has it completely backwards.
The JD Power IQS measures the amount of problems, on average, for a vehicle in 100 cars bought. This correlates with the quality of their vehicles because it means less and less problems come up with the manufacturers on the top of the list compared to those toward the bottom.
The change of quality rankings can be greatly attributed to how the automakers have handled the trends of infotainment systems (the screens in your car) and driver assistance. Because of the amount of issues that can be had with new types of technology, many people reported issues, which could have skewed results a little bit.
Kia, however, has avoided all of these issues because they decided to keep a simple, elegant infotainment system in their vehicles. The advantage of this is that there are less issues because they were able to perfect their technology instead of focusing on the next big thing.
Topping off the JDP IQS was Genesis - the luxury brand for Hyundai vehicles - followed by Kia and then Hyundai. This means that the top 3 car brands in the world for initial quality come from Korea. It's quite surprising for those who have not experienced driving in Korean vehicles because we have heard for decades that buying from Japan or America will result in a high quality, reliable car.
However, Korean automakers has perfected what they do and have been able to capitalize on the market in a similar method that Apple does - in that they don't focus on being the first to do things all the time when it comes to new technologies, but have focused on perfecting what they do and creating a great customer experience.
This doesn't mean that the thought that American cars were a great choice was wrong, tough. The next 3 cars on the JD Power Initial Quality Survey were all American. Ford, Lincoln, and Chevrolet rounded out the top 6 and proved that American cars still provide quality vehicles and can be trusted for having a high initial quality.
All of the top 6 brands beat the industry average score of 93 issues per 100 vehicles sold, but that's where it ends. Other American automakers, every single European automaker, and Japanese automakers all landed below the industry average in initial quality which completely flips the prevailing thought of Japan being on top of automotive quality standards.
Some luxury car producers ended up extremely low on the list, with Jaguar coming in dead last. Jaguar averaged 130 problems per 100 cars sold, more than twicethe score of Genesis (63). A spokesman for Jaguar said that the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto has reduced complaints around infotainment issues, and that they're working to improve those scores.
It's been argued that the JDP survey does not reflect the total ownership experience of a car and merely just the issues. When it comes to luxury brands it does seem interesting that many of them are far below the industry, giving some traction to this argument.
After this article was published, a Volkswagen spokesperson said "The ranking was heavily influenced by launch issues for the Jetta," which had five recalls in its first few months on sale. "We are working diligently to resolve those issues. When it comes to infotainment systems, we have a positive gap to the industry average.”
JDP responded by saying that Korea producing high quality vehicles isn't a one time thing and that they've been consistently improving for years, especially with their infotainment systems that offer combination of navigation, music, and voice calling features.
"The Korean manufacturers offer relatively simple systems that do the basics well, even if they skimp on next-generation ideas like gesture controls. That matches Consumer Reports’ most recent infotainment system ranking, which listed Genesis, Hyundai, and Kia among its favorites. It gave the top score to Tesla, which JD Power doesn’t include in its rankings, due to a lack of data." - Wired
As consumers we have the luxury of choosing what type of vehicle we purchase and drive the types of features we want. It's important, though, that the cars we choose are high quality and don't have a bevy of issues when we buy them. JD Power did a great thing in running their Initial Quality Survey and it should definitely be consulted when purchasing a new car as it opens our eyes to all of the options from automakers around the world and gives us a look at who's who in the auto industry.