OTHER NATIONS ADVANCE FASTER THAN ONE-TIME LEADER: SURVEY
The quality of vehicles made by European, Korean and US companies has improved so much in recent years that Japanese carmakers are having trouble keeping pace.
The survey on new vehicles’ quality, by American consulting firm J.D. Power, found that despite problems with entertainment and connectivity systems, quality is starting to improve for the car industry as a whole.
For the first time since 2012, buyers had reported fewer problems in new vehicles than in the previous year.
“The cars being built, for the most part, are very good quality coming out of the box,” said John Humphreys, senior vice president of J.D. Power.
The industry score went up because many companies improved existing models, and the top companies did a better job with mechanical and infotainment quality of new models, Humphreys said.
The survey of more than 84,000 US 2015 car buyers in February and March found Porsche was once again the top brand for quality. Kia vaulted five spots to take second place, Hyundai finished fourth, Jaguar in third and Infiniti rounded out the top five finishers.
The worst-performing brands in America were Fiat, Smart, Chrysler, Subaru and Jeep.
The Korean brands have been improving quality for years by bringing consumers into the process as they design cars, especially with electronics, said Humphreys. US and European brands also improved. The Japanese brands raised their overall score, but the rest of the industry improved at a faster rate, he said.
The survey, which asked about problems in the first 90 days of ownership, saw Korean brands ahead in the industry with only 90 problems per 100 vehicles, 11 problems fewer than last year. European brands followed at 113 problems, passing Japanese brands for the first time. Japanese brands combined had 114 problems per 100 vehicles, two better than last year which tied with US brands. The industry average was 112 problems per 100 vehicles, four better than last year. For the first time in the 29-year history of the survey, Japanese brands fell below the industry average. Only four of 10 Japanese brands showed an improvement.
“There’s a shift in terms of who is doing the best in terms of industry leadership,” Humphreys said.
The shift is significant, he said, because Japanese brands promote their quality and reliability, but that advantage is eroding and they will have to find another way to differentiate themselves.
The survey is the first major assessment of quality for 2015 vehicles, and it is closely watched by car shoppers.
Consumer Reports magazine’s influential quality study comes out in October and includes other years.