Kia overtook Porsche to lead the industry in J.D. Power’s annual report card on vehicle quality, marking the first time in 27 years that a nonpremium brand has topped the list.
Kia joins Toyota as the only nonpremium brands to have finished first in the 30-year history of the Initial Quality Study, J.D. Power and Associates said today in releasing the results at the Automotive Press Association here. Toyota came in at No. 1 overall in 1989.
This was the second consecutive year that the nonpremium brands were led by Kia. The South Korean marquee finished second overall in 2015, with a score of 86. This year’s first-place finish marks the culmination of a steady ascent from 18th in 2012.
Last summer, Kia vowed to take the title this year to fight the perception among consumers that its quality wasn’t up to snuff. J.D. Power says vehicles with the fewest problems tend to have owners who are most likely to buy that brand again.
“Ranking [No. 1] in the entire industry for initial quality is the result of Kia’s decade-long focus on craftsmanship and continuous improvement, and reflects the voice of our customers, which is the ultimate affirmation,” said Michael Sprague, COO of Kia Motors America.
Kia narrowly topped Porsche, which finished second overall with 84 problems and had ranked first in each of the previous three years.
“It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen this much improvement in the industry,” said Renee Stephens, J.D. Power vice president of U.S. automotive quality. “It’s very important because what we’re seeing is that our automakers and our supplier base really listen to what consumers are saying, and also consumers are benefiting from that.”
As a whole, nonpremium brands topped premium brands for the first time in a decade, Stephens said. Overall, nonpremium gains were driven by a “simplification” in technology features, she said.
“What we’re seeing with the nonpremium brands is that they’re also adding content, they’re also adding functions” to their vehicles like premium brands, she said. “Nonpremiums are adding content as well, but they’re experiencing lower problem rates.”
The Korean and domestic automakers were also able to make gains thanks to improvements in technology, Stephens said.
“When you see the weight that this has in the industry and how consumers are talking about their vehicle, their experience with technology is very, very important,” she said.
Stephens said reliability remains the most important factor for consumers, who are less likely to stick with a brand if they experience numerous problems.
The study is based on more than 80,000 responses from owners and lessees of 2016 model-year vehicles after 90 days of ownership. Consumers were surveyed from February through May.
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