South Korea’s Hyundai-Kia has been playing a long game in quality. Over a decade ago, the company decided that, rather than going for low prices alone, it would try to compete based on quality, just as Toyota, Honda, and Nissan did when they first entered the United States.
Along the way, of course, Hyundai and Kia reaped the immediate benefits of lowered warranty claims and higher customer satisfaction, compared with their earlier “low price at any cost” strategy. The brands stopped being a joke long ago.
Genesis, once a Hyundai sub-brand but now on its own, hit J.D. Power’s first place mark in initial quality (for the first 90 days), with 68 problems per hundred cars. Kia was #2, with 72, and Hyundai was #3 with 74. The industry average, by comparison, was 93 problems per hundred vehicles. Given that Hyundai and Kia sell almost identical vehicles, the two points between them are likely random variance.
Two smaller brands, Mazda and Mitsubishi, had major improvements, with Mazda shooting up by 25 points. The former worst-place recipient, Fiat, dropped out because almost nobody has been buying their cars.
The biggest problem comes in the “infotainment” systems, which often control not just the radio and navigation, but also the climate control.
GM did fairly well, but not as well as expected, given how well its brands do on the long-term surveys; and Chevrolet, the least costly brand, was also the best, with 82 problems/100. Cadillac was much further down the list (90), with Buick below average (95) and, oddly, GMC well below average (99). Since J.D. Power doesn’t provide standard deviations or error ranges any more, it’s hard to tell whether Chevrolet and GMC should be that far apart, or whether there’s just a lot of noise in the numbers.