Hyundai, Kia Gain Prestige in J.D. Power Initial Quality Study

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JD Power IQS

Despite strong overall sales, it’s a topsy-turvy time in the US auto market. There’s no better illustration of that fact than today’s release of the 2015 version of the influential Initial Quality Study (IQS) by J.D. Power & Associates.

Korean brands have surged to the front of the entire industry in terms of perceived quality by US car buyers, according to Power, even though market share gains by Hyundai and Kia have slowed lately.

Meanwhile, Japanese brands—for decades, held as the gold standard in automotive quality—have actually sunk below the industry norm for the first time despite improving their quality performance.

The industry overall experienced 3 percent advance in initial quality, which Power measured by asking owners about problems experienced during their first 90 days of ownership.

Continuing their recent surge, Korean brands led the industry in initial quality by the widest margin ever.

Japanese car brands—considered the gold standard—were surpassed by European brands for the first time, and on par with US brands for only the second time

And for the first time in the IQS’s 29-year history, Japanese makes overall fell below the industry average—only four of the 10 Japanese brands included in the study posted an improvement.

“This is a clear shift in the quality landscape,” Renee Stephens, vice president of US automotive quality for J.D. Power, said in a press release.

Porsche ranked highest of all brands in initial quality for the third consecutive year. Kia followed Porsche, and for the first time led all non-premium makes. Jaguar, Hyundai and Infiniti rounded out the top five nameplates. Infiniti was one of the most improved brands in the study.

Beyond that, segment leaders and other indicators of top quality were spread across many brands, giving just about every automaker something to boast about. At the same time, the entire industry continued to suffer from what Power called “the most problem-prone area for a third consecutive year”: entertainment and connectivity systems.

Even Fiat Chrysler managed to find something to crow about, with its new version of the Chrysler 300 ranking highest in Power’s Large Car category, and the Dodge Challenger ranking at the top of the Midsize Sporty Car segment. But overall, three of the company’s brands—Jeep, Chrysler and Fiat—were among the five worst.

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