Genesis, Kia, Hyundai again rank highest in J.D. Power quality scorecard

DETROIT -- Korean brands repeated their 2018 medal sweep as Genesis, Kia and Hyundai topped J.D. Power's annual U.S. report card on 2019 new-vehicle quality.

Across the industry, initial vehicle quality was flat compared with the 2018 model year scores, as more brands slipped than improved in the closely watched Initial Quality Study released Wednesday at the Automotive Press Association.

Genesis, Hyundai's 3-year-old luxury brand, again topped the survey with 63 problems reported per 100 vehicles, an improvement from 68 problems in 2018. Kia, as it did last year, finished second with 70 problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Hyundai at 71, both slightly better than their 2018 scores.

This year marks Kia's fifth consecutive as the top-ranked mass-market brand. The three Korean brands were followed in the top 10 by Ford, Lincoln, Chevrolet, Nissan, Dodge, Lexus and Toyota.

Jaguar finished last with 130 problems per 100 vehicles. Land Rover, which placed last in 2018, Mitsubishi, Alfa Romeo and Volvo also finished near the bottom of the latest rankings.

Nameplate IQS rankingProblems per 100 vehicles
Industry Average  93
Alfa Romeo118
Land Rover130
Note: Fiat is included in the study, but not ranked due to small sample size. Tesla is not included in the ranking due to unrepresentative sample size.

13 brands improve

Initial Quality Study scores reflect the number of problems reported over the first 90 days of ownership. The industry average for new-vehicle quality, after four consecutive years of gains, stayed at 2018's level of 93 problems per 100 vehicles, J.D. Power said. Thirteen brands improved while 18 fared worse. Fiat and Tesla were not included in the latest report because of inadequate sample size, J.D. Power said.

The 2019 Initial Quality Study is based on 76,256 buyers and lessees of new 2019 models. The survey, conducted from February through May, asks 233 questions across eight vehicle categories. While infotainment and connectivity continue to dog automakers, J.D. Power said longtime problems - notably paint imperfections, brake and suspension noise, engines that won't start and check-engine light glitches - were noteworthy in the latest survey.

Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, said there are several underlying reasons for the Korean brands' continued dominance.

"The Korean brands have become very adept at understanding exactly what consumers want in their vehicles and delivering just that, and nothing else in terms of extras that distract from those things," Sargent said. "They give consumers the basics that they want, and they make that technology extremely easy to understand and use."For the second straight year, the Porsche 911 was the highest-rated nameplate, with 58 problems reported per 100 vehicles.

SegmentHighest rankedOthers ranked
Small CarKia RioHyundai Accent, Nissan Versa
Small Premium Car*BMW 2 Series 
Compact CarKia ForteHyundai Elantra, Toyota Corolla (tie)
Compact Sporty Car*Mini CooperHyundai Veloster
Compact Premium CarGenesis G70BMW 4 Series, Kia Stinger
Midsize CarChevrolet Malibu, Ford Fusion (tie)Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima (tie)
Midsize Sporty Car*Dodge Challenger 
Midsize Premium CarMercedes-Benz CLSGenesis G80, Audi A7
Large CarNissan MaximaToyota Avalon, Chrysler 300
MinivanKia SedonaDodge Grand Caravan, Toyota Sienna
Small SUVKia SportageHyundai Tucson, Hyundai Kona
Compact SUVChevrolet EquinoxFord Escape, Honda CR-V (tie), Nissan Rogue (tie)
Compact Premium SUVBMW X4Lincoln MKC, Mercedes-Benz GLC
Midsize PickupFord RangerNissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma
Midsize SUVHyundai Santa FeFord Flex, Jeep Grand Cherokee (tie), Kia Sorento (tie), Nissan Murano (tie)
Midsize Premium SUVLexus RXMercedes-Benz GLE, Lincoln Nautilus
Large SUVChevrolet TahoeToyota Sequoia, Ford Expedition
Large Premium SUV*Cadillac EscaladeLincoln Navigator
Large Light Duty PickupNissan TitanFord F-150, Toyota Tundra
Large Heavy Duty Pickup*Chevrolet Silverado HDFord Super Duty
*No other model in this segment performs above segment average.
There must be at least three models with 80% of market sales in any given award segment for an award to be presented. The Large Premium Car segment did not meet criteria to be award eligible, thus no awards will be issued.
Source: J.D. Power 2019 U.S. Initial Quality Study

First time in top five

Some highlights of the 2019 study, according to J.D. Power:

• The Korean domination of the study is no fluke; 16 of 18 models from Hyundai Motor Group ranked in the top three of their respective segments, and were noted for excelling in infotainment and other electronic components - areas that remain problematic for other automakers.

• Among domestic brands, Ford and Lincoln scored highest at 83 and 84 problems per 100 vehicles. They finished among the top five for the first time, J.D. Power said. They were followed closely by Chevrolet at 85. Dodge, at 90, and Buick, at 92, were the only other domestic brands above the industry average.

• Nissan scored highest among Japanese brands at 86, followed by Lexus and Toyota, tied at 90. Other Japanese brands finished below the industry average.

• Every European brand finished below average on this year's survey, with Mercedes-Benz highest at 94.

• While infotainment systems remain the biggest source of problems for automakers, it is also the area with the most improvement, especially voice recognition and Bluetooth connectivity, J.D. Power said. But more advanced driver assistance systems are an increasing source of problems and owner complaints, especially among premium brands.

• While consumers report fewer problems with new or redesigned vehicles than in previous years, they still report more problems with them as a group than consumers report with existing models. Several vehicles deep into their product cycles - including the Nissan Frontier, Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler 300, and Toyota Tundra, Sequoia and Tacoma - placed among the top three nameplates in their respective segments.

Sargent said much of the movement among brands can be explained by new product launches, which historically tend to drive down brand scores as automakers work their way through problems.

"Anytime you see a brand that's fallen in a particular ranking, it's almost always because they launched a high-volume vehicle," Sargent said. "Sometimes it's just your turn; you have a big launch, you go down in the rankings. But the next year, you'll go back up in the rankings."