The good news for the auto industry is that new-vehicle quality is at its highest level ever, according the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Initial Quality Study released June 21.
The concerning news is that collision-avoidance technology and other advanced driver-assistance systems were part of the only category to show declines in quality scores.
Overall, new-vehicle quality improved 8 percent from last year, according to J.D. Power.
Initial quality in the 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 improved across seven of the eight categories measured, with 27 of the 33 brands in the study improving their quality compared to 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.”
As far as what went wrong, the only category to worsen this year was Features, Controls and Displays.
The biggest increases in problems were 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 is a red flag 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,” J.D. Power said in a news release.
Audio/Communication/Entertainment/Navigation (ACEN) remained the area where new-vehicle owners experienced the most problems. However, the category showed the most improvement since 2016, with a score of 22.8 PP100, or 2.7 PP100 better than last year.
If you’re still counting Fiat Chrysler as a member of the “Detroit Three,” the U.S. automakers outperformed import brands for the second year in a row but for only the third time since the study first was published in 1987. In 2017, domestic brands receive a score of 93 PP100 compared to 99 PP100 for import brands. Last year, domestic brands also had fewer problems (103 PP100) compared to 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.”
Kia Ranked Highest Overall
Kia ranked highest in overall initial quality for a second consecutive year with a score of 72 PP100.
Genesis (77 PP100) ranked second overall, followed by Porsche (78 PP100). Ford and Ram (86 PP100) tied for fourth.
MINI was the most improved brand, with owners reporting 33 PP100 fewer problems than in 2016. Other brands with strong improvement included Ram (28 PP100 improvement), Acura (19), Volvo (18) and Ford (16).
The parent company receiving the most model-level awards for its various brands was Hyundai Motor Co. (five model-level awards), followed by General Motors and BMW, each with four.
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 2017.