Kia Motors America leadership understood that the automaker surprised the industry last year when it topped the J.D. Power U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS).
As the 2017 study showed new-vehicle quality is at its highest level ever — improving 8 percent from a year ago — Kia celebrated again on Wednesday by taking the title as being ranked highest in overall initial quality for a second consecutive year.
This J.D. Power accolade arrives as Kia said last week it now has gone 16 straight months of certified pre-owned sales records.
Kia moved 7,008 CPO units last month, which beat year-ago figures by 10.2 percent and was its best May ever, according to Autodata Corp. Through five months of the year, there have been 33,414 Kia certified sales, good for a 13.2-percent increase.
And perhaps Kia can leverage this J.D. Power honor into even more CPO turns.
“When Kia beat out the entire industry in last year’s J.D. Power Initial Quality Study many people wondered if we could maintain such a lofty position. Today, the answer is loud and clear as Kia owns the top spot for the second straight year with more 2017 segment award winners than any other nameplate,” said Michael Sprague, Kia’s chief operating officer and executive vice president.
“Our back-to-back chart-topping IQS performances reconfirm Kia’s status as today’s world-class automaker and reflect the exacting standards and craftsmanship our team members instill into every car, crossover and SUV Kia builds.”
Initial quality in this J.D. Power study is measured by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) during the first 90 days of ownership, with a lower score reflecting higher quality. In this year's study, quality improves across seven of the eight categories measured, with 27 of the 33 brands in the study improving their quality compared with 2016.
“Automotive manufacturers are responding to consumer feedback and producing vehicles of the highest quality,” said Dave Sargent, vice president, global automotive at J.D. Power. “The industry has improved significantly in each of the past three years. Today's vehicles have more things that could go wrong but fewer things that actually do go wrong."
J.D. Power noted that Kia led the way with a score of 72 PP100. Kia collected five segment awards — the most of any nameplate — for the Soul (compact multi-purpose vehicle), Forte (compact car), Cadenza (large car), Niro (small SUV) and Sorento (midsize SUV).
J.D. Power officials indicated Genesis (77 PP100) ranked second overall followed by Porsche (78 PP100). Ford and Ram (86 PP100) tie for fourth.
Mini is the most improved brand, with owners reporting 33 PP100 fewer problems than in 2016. Other brands with strong improvement include Ram (28 PP100 improvement), Acura (19), Volvo (18) and Ford (16).
General Motors models that ranked highest in its segments were the Chevrolet Silverado; Chevrolet Silverado HD; Chevrolet Sonic; and GMC Terrain.
BMW models that rank highest in their segments are the BMW 2 Series; BMW 4 Series; BMW X6; and Mini Cooper.
Other models that rank highest in their respective segments are the Chrysler Pacifica; Ford Expedition; Ford Mustang; Infiniti QX80; Lexus GS; Mercedes-Benz GLA; Nissan Frontier; Porsche 911; Porsche Macan; and Toyota Camry.
Three other major findings
J.D. Power mentioned a trio of other key findings from the 2017 study, including:
—Technology improving but still problematic: Audio/communication/entertainment/navigation (ACEN) remains the area where new-vehicle owners experience the most problems. However, this category showed the most improvement since 2016 with a score of 22.8 PP100, or 2.7 PP100 better than last year.
—Early warning bells for autonomous technology: The only category to worsen this year is features, controls and displays. The largest increases in problems are for cruise control (primarily adaptive cruise); lane departure warning; collision avoidance/alert systems; and blind spot warning. These features comprise some of the building blocks of autonomous vehicles, and an increasing number of consumer-reported problems sounds warning bells for automakers and suppliers. Consumers will need to be convinced that these systems are foolproof before they will give up driving control to autonomous vehicles.
—Domestic brands continue to show improvement: The "Detroit Three" outperform import brands for the second year in a row but for only the third time since the study was first published in 1987. In 2017, domestic brands receive a score of 93 PP100 compared with 99 PP100 for import brands. Last year, domestic brands also had fewer problems (103 PP100) compared with import brands (106 PP100).
“The Initial Quality Study continues to demonstrate the critical importance of automakers responding to consumer feedback regarding vehicle quality,” Sargent said.
“Any automaker that stands still will quickly start to fall behind. For consumers, the great news is that significant improvements are occurring in all model segments, meaning that you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a quality vehicle,” he continued.
Plant awards & other study notes
J.D. Power highlighted Toyota Motor Corp.’s Kyushu 2 plant in Japan, which produces the Lexus ES and Lexus RX, received the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing models with the fewest defects or malfunctions.
Plant quality awards are based solely on defects and malfunctions, and exclude design-related problems.
GM’s Fort Wayne, Ind., plant, which produces the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, receives the Gold Plant Quality Award for the Americas region, while Porsche's Leipzig plant, which produces the Porsche Cayenne and Macan, receives the Gold Plant Quality Award for the Europe/Africa region.
Four other items worth mentioning:
—In 1987, when the IQS was first published, Mercedes-Benz ranked highest as a nameplate while the Toyota Cressida was the highest-ranked model.
—Domestic brands have scored better than imports in only three years (2010, 2016 and 2017).
—Mass market brands have scored better than premium brands in only three years (2006, 2016 and 2017).
—There have been four generations of the study (IQS1: 1987-1997; IQS2: 1998-2005; IQS3: 2006-2012; IQS4: 2013-present). The industry has shown significant improvement in each iteration, with the best IQS scores occurring in the most recent year for each generation.
The U.S. Initial Quality Study is based on responses from nearly 80,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2017 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study is based on a 233-question battery organized into eight problem 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.
The complete 2017 study can be found here.