Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Korea - The New Center of Automotive Quality

From: Detroit Free Press:

Korean brands are winning the quality race as Japanese brands fall to below average for the first time in 29 years and a few domestic brands climb the ranks, according to the influential J.D. Power 2015 Initial Quality Study released today.
"This is a clear shift in the quality landscape," said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power.
"For so long, Japanese brands have been viewed by many as the gold standard in vehicle quality," Stephens said. "While the Japanese automakers continue to make improvements, we're seeing other brands, most notably Korean makes, really accelerating the rate of improvement. Leading companies are not only stepping up the pace of improvements on existing models, but are also working up front to launch vehicles with higher quality and more intuitive designs."
The Hyundai and Kia brands erased any quality doubts as they continued to widen their lead over the rest of the field with another significant year-over-year improvement in scores that measure problems reported by new buyers in the first 90 days of ownership.
Conversely, Japanese stalwarts including Toyota and Honda, which many consumers perceive as the quality benchmarks, have collectively fallen below the industry average for the first time in the 29 years of the study that was released at an Automotive Press Association event today in Detroit. Only four of the 10 Japanese automakers improved their quality over the past year.
GM had four 2015 models ranked highest in their segment: the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu, Spark, Silverado and Equinox. It was not as impressive as last year's accomplishment of six top models, the most of any automaker. While no automaker exceeded GM's accomplishment this year, Hyundai, Nissan and Volkswagen matched GM with four segment leaders as well.Among the domestic brands, General Motors had two above-average brands: Chevrolet in the seventh spot and Buick was 11th while GMC was below average in 17th place and Cadillac placed 21 of the 33 brands.
Ford's luxury Lincoln brand was in the eighth spot and the mainstream Ford brand was also above average in the 12th slot as the automaker has worked to improve the MyFord Touch infotainment system that brought down its quality scores in the past. And Ford has introduced its third-generation Sync 3 system for the 2016 model year which is designed to be more user-friendly.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles did not fare as well. The Ram brand was above the industry average, squeezing into the 13th spot but the rest were below the curve: Dodge placed 18; Jeep was 29; Chrysler was 31 and Fiat was dead last at 33.
FCA's quality chief Doug Betts left the automaker last fall after the automaker had scored poorly in the 2014 J.D. Power study and then the Consumer Reports reliability survey.
Initial quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles, with a lower score reflecting higher quality. Overall, the industry saw a 3% improvement in initial quality, which shows continued diligence for a sector fighting for integrity in the wake of a historic number of recalls including older models from GM with ignition switch problems and 34 million vehicles across the brands of 11 automakers with air bags from Japanese supplier Takata.
The industry average is 112 problems per 100 vehicles. The Korean brands collectively averaged only 90 problems -- down from 101 a year ago -- giving them a wide lead over the competition.
The 10 Japanese brands recorded 114 problems per 100 vehicles -- putting them in a dead tie with the domestic brands for only the second time. And for the first time, European brands at 113 problems per 100 vehicles, outperformed the Japanese brands.
Across the industry, many complaints continue to be centered around infotainment technology in cars as consumers expect their smartphones to connect and operate seamlessly within the car. The top complaint for the third year: pairing phones and using voice recognition, which is now in 67% of new vehicles.
"Smartphones have set high consumer expectations of how well technology should work, and automakers are struggling to match that success in their new vehicles," said Stephens. "However, we are seeing some (automakers) make important improvements along the way. What's clear is that they can't afford to wait for the next generation of models to launch before making important updates to these systems."
The results are based on responses from more than 84,000 people who bought or leased a new 2015 vehicle.
Contact Alisa Priddle: 313-222-5394 or Follow her on Twitter @AlisaPriddle
Top brands in initial quality
1. Porsche is the top brand for third consecutive year.
2. Kia is the highest nonpremium brand for the first time. Last year Jaguar placed second.
3. Jaguar drops a notch to third. Last year Lexus held the bronze position.
4. Hyundai's strong showing puts both Korean automakers in the top 5.
5. Infiniti is one of the most improved brands.
Brands and models of note
General Motors' Chevrolet and Buick brands are above average; GMC and Cadillac are not. Among individual models, the Chevrolet Equinox, Malibu, Silverado and Spark are top performers.
Ford is 12th and Lincoln is 8th. The Escape and the Super Duty pickup are top performers.
FCA: Only the Ram brand placed above average but the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Challenger are top performers in their categories.
Toyota falls to 10th; Lexus is ninth compared with third place a year ago. The Lexus LS, Toyota Tacoma and Sequoia are top performers.
Honda is barely above industry average in the 14th spot while Acura is well down the pack at 26. No models led their fields.
Highest quality plants around the world
BMW 3-Series plant in Rosslyn, South Africa, builds vehicles with the fewest defects.
Toyota's Cambridge North plant in Ontario (Toyota Corolla) is the best North American plant.
Kia's Kwangju Plant 1 in Korea (Kia Soul) is the best in Asia Pacific.

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