JD Power 2015 Initial Quality Study: Good News For U.S., South Korea, Europe, Bad News For Japan

June 18, 2015

Research powerhouse J.D. Power has released its 2015 Initial Quality Study of U.S. vehicles, and it's full of interesting info for anyone in need of a new car.

Along with its Vehicle Dependability Study, the IQS is one of Power's most eagerly anticipated publications of the year. Both examine the number of problems experienced by new-car owners: the VDS tracks those problems over a full three years, while the IQS looks at just the first three months. This year's IQS was culled from data supplied by more than 84,000 new-car buyers and lessees of 2015 model-year vehicles.

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There's a lot of data contained within the report. We've pulled out some of the most important bits and put them in tasty, bullet-point form for easy digestion:

  • The good news is, initial quality improved for model-year 2015. On average, there were 112 problems per 100 vehicles (PP100), versus 116 PP100 for model-year 2014.
  • As we've seen many, many times before, the most common problems with new cars had nothing to do with brakes or warning lights or fuel caps and everything to do with infotainment systems. (In the case of MyFord Touch, things were so bad, owners once filed a lawsuit.)
  • Within the infotainment arena, the most troublesome bits of technology were voice-recognition systems and Bluetooth pairing. Voice-recognition alone accounted for ten or more PP100 in vehicles equipped with the technology. Power sees this as an Achilles Heel for automakers: voice-recognition is experiencing a surge in demand, meaning that a surge in complaints may follow.
  • As you can see from the chart above, Porsche topped the IQS for a third straight year, boasting a low score of 80 PP100.
  • It wasn't all luxury brands at the top, though: South Korea's Kia shed 20 PP100 between model-year 2014 and 2015, earning it the #2 spot at 86 PP100.
  • Jaguar, Hyundai, and Infiniti finished out the top five brands, with Infiniti boasting one of the best year-over-year improvements: a drop of 31 PP100.
  • At the other end of the scale, Fiat performed the poorest of all brands included in the study, with 161 PP100. Keeping it company at the bottom were two of its siblings, Chrysler and Jeep, along with Smart and Subaru. 
  • On the whole, South Korean brands fared best of all, with an average of 90 PP100. (Though you could argue that with only two brands in the running, it's not an entirely fair comparison.)
  • European marques landed in second place: with an average of 113 PP100, they out-performed Japanese brands (114 PP100) for the first time in the IQS's 29-year history.
  • U.S. brands averaged 114 PP100, too, giving them their second-ever tie against Japanese rivals. Not all U.S. brands fared equally well, though: Ford and GM tended to come out on top, while nearly all Fiat Chrysler brands fell below the industry average.
  • Japanese brands did manage to shed 2 PP100, but brands from other regions made stronger improvements. Japan's average of 114 PP100 was worse than the industry average of 112 PP100 -- a first

There's a lot more data to sift through if you have time. Embedded above, you'll find a video of Power's Renee Stephens, discussing some of the company's findings, plus lists of top-performing cars, trucks, and SUVs.

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Questions? Comments? Snarky, off-topic remarks? Share 'em in the comments below.

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