There’s a familiar automotive brand at the top of the latest J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study rankings – but it isn’t Lexus or Porsche.
Kia, together with South Korean car makers Genesis and Hyundai, captured three of the top four rankings in the annual product quality survey that’s closely watched by the industry.
The 2022 study, which surveyed more than 29,000 American owners of 2019 model-year vehicles three years after purchase, put the Korean brands at the top of heap, mirroring the outcome of J.D. Power’s 2019 Initial Quality Study that probed new-vehicle buyers after 90 days of ownership.
In fact, seven of the 10 highest-ranked brands in the initial quality study are among the 10 top-ranked brands in this year’s dependability survey, pretty much validating the 90-day survey as a good predictor of overall quality.
“Many owners are holding on to their vehicles longer, so long-term dependability is even more critical,” says David Amodeo, J.D. Power’s director of global automotive. “Some automakers are performing much better than others at preventing problems from occurring.”
J.D. Power redesigned its seminal study this year to assess all of the features and technology that are available in current vehicles, covering 184 problem areas in several major categories including driver assist technology; features/controls/displays; infotainment; driving experience; powertrain; exterior; interior and seating.
The study also measures satisfaction with the vehicle’s condition after three years of ownership, whether owners find their vehicle as appealing now as when it was new, and any software updates that have been made to the vehicle. On that last point, Amodeo says automakers have learned from the tech industry.
“Cellphones update all the time with over-the-air software releases and, increasingly, automakers must take advantage of this approach to fix problems, improve features, and add capabilities to keep owners satisfied,” he notes.
A vehicle’s infotainment centre remains the most problematic aspect of owning a new vehicle, with an average of 51.9 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), which is more than twice as many problems as the next-highest category. Typical headaches include: issues with built-in voice recognition; Android Auto/Apple CarPlay connectivity; built-in Bluetooth system; not enough power /USB ports; difficult-to-use navigation systems, and fussy display screens.
[caption id="attachment_165467" align="alignnone" width="2560"]
2019 Ford Mustang ecoboost premium fastback race red[/caption]
In terms of the auto brands, Kia ranks highest overall in vehicle dependability this year with a score of 145 PP100, followed by Buick (147 PP100), Hyundai (148), Genesis (155), Toyota (158), Lexus (159), Porsche (162) and Dodge at 166 PP100. J.D. Power equates a lower PP100 score with better quality and a higher rank.
J.D. Power analysts suggest that the build quality of mass-market vehicles, such as those by Hyundai and Toyota, has improved and now matches that of the premium brands like Porsche and Lexus. Mass market brands average 190 problems per 100 vehicles, which is 14 PP100 lower than for premium brands. Premium brands typically incorporate more technology in their vehicles, which increases the likelihood of problems.
The lofty ranking of Kia and corporate cousin Hyundai may come as a surprise to owners of their vehicles, some of whom have had to deal with large-scale recalls involving 2.0-L and 2.4-L four-cylinder engines that can spontaneously seize and, more recently, for potential engine fires due to a short circuit. Despite the setbacks, owners of 2019 models appear to be very satisfied.
At the other end of the spectrum, Land Rover garnered the poorest dependability score of 284 problems per 100 vehicles – the industry average is 192 PP100 – followed by Ram Truck (266), Volvo (256), Alfa Romeo (245), Acura (244) and Chrysler (240). These results, seen in previous studies, suggest that paying for premium brands doesn’t necessarily buy superior quality.
In addition to scoring the automotive brands, J.D. Power ranked the most dependable 2019 models in various car and truck segments. The Porsche 911 is the highest-ranked model overall in the 2022 study, making it the third time in the past four years that the venerable 911 has been named Most Dependable Model.
Winning cars in their segments include the Toyota Corolla (compact), Hyundai Sonata (midsize), BMW 4 Series (compact premium), Lincoln MKZ (midsize premium), Mazda MX-5 Miata (compact sporty) and Ford Mustang (midsize sporty).
In the SUV and crossover categories, the Buick Encore is the highest ranked small SUV, while the Buick Envision captured compact SUV. Other notable 2019 models include the Lexus NX (compact premium), Hyundai Santa Fe (midsize), Lexus RX (midsize premium) and Chevrolet Suburban (large SUV).
[caption id="attachment_165468" align="alignnone" width="2560"]
2019 Buick Envision[/caption]
The Toyota Tundra is the highest ranked light pickup truck, the Chevrolet Silverado HD is the best quality heavy-duty pickup, and the Dodge Grand Caravan is the most dependable minivan (no longer in production, unfortunately).
As the segment wins demonstrate, certain manufacturers consistently rise to the top of the standings. Toyota, together with its premium Lexus brand, won the most category awards at five – as did General Motors, which won for its Buick and Chevrolet cars and trucks. Hyundai Motor Group received three segment awards.
J.D. Power’s dependability surveys offer buyers of both new and used vehicles some helpful insights, not least of which is consumers don’t have to spend a fortune to get a quality ride. Some of the most affordable brands and models received high dependability scores, while some of the priciest luxury vehicles have shown to be considerably more troublesome for owners.
Best of all, higher quality often correlates with higher vehicle residual value – and that can mean more money in the driver’s pocket when it comes time to trade in ol’ reliable.