J.D. Power's annual Initial Quality Study (IQS) shows a decline in problems per 100 (PP100) from 105 in 2016 to only 97 in 2017. Kia took top spot for a second year running, followed by the Genesis brand.
IHS Markit perspective
- Significance: The 2017 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS) shows a decline in problems per 100 (PP100) compared with 2016. Kia, Genesis, and Porsche took the top three positions, followed by Ford and Ram. J.D. Power notes that 27 brands saw improvement, as well as better performances in the audio/communication/entertainment/navigation (ACEN) category.
- Implications: J.D. Power says that the improvement reflects automakers' efforts to address the drivers behind customer complaints. Although technology is improving, J.D. Power also notes that the features, controls, and displays category saw more problems than in 2016. The 2017 results show improvements in the infotainment and communications technology areas, although these remain most problematic. Additionally, J.D. Power reports a higher instance of PP100 for advanced driver assist features.
- Outlook: The rankings in the IQS remain subjective, and differentiation between "things broken" and "things gone wrong" is somewhat blurred. However, the study captures responses over time, and can be used to see if an automaker is improving, from a consumer perspective, or declining. The 2017 results demonstrate an improving situation for the automotive industry overall, although the increase in PP100 in the features, controls, and displays category is a cause for concern, J.D. Power says, because the issues driving the problems surround advanced driver assist systems.
The latest J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS) has been released, reflecting the results for 2017-model-year vehicles. The company has reported a third year of improving scores, after results in 2014 had dropped. The 2015, 2016, and now 2017 surveys have all shown decreases in problems per 100 (PP100).
In 2017, PP100 dropped to 97, compared with 105 in 2016, 112 in 2015, and 116 in 2014. The survey was undertaken from February 2016 through to May 2017. The 2017 survey garnered responses from nearly 80,000 people who bought or leased 2017-model-year vehicles after 90 days of ownership. J.D. Power vice-president of global automotive, Dave Sargent, delivered the results to a Detroit (United States) area Automotive Press Association, noting that the pace of improvement accelerated: the 2016 results had improved by 6%, while the 2017 results improved by 8%. In a statement announcing the results, Sargent said, "Automotive manufacturers are responding to consumer feedback and producing vehicles of the highest quality. 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."
The lead story from the 2017 IQS is a wide-ranging overall improvement. J.D. Power noted that 27 brands improved compared with 2016; in 2016 only 22 of the 33 brands included demonstrated better performance. Kia owners reported the fewest PP100 (72) for the second year in a row, followed by owners of Hyundai's new luxury brand, Genesis (77 PP100). Porsche (78 PP100), which had held the top spot for several years, slipped to third. Kia and Porsche were also among the brands to see improvement; the 2016 results had put Kia at 83 PP100 and Porsche at 84 PP100. In the 2017 study 33 brands were surveyed, the same number as in 2016. Genesis was added, while Scion was discontinued with the 2016 model year. Daimler's Smart brand was included in the study, but was not ranked in 2017 because of an insufficient sample size.
Other trends included strong collective improvement from the US domestic automakers. The "Detroit Three" – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Ford, and General Motors (GM) – collectively improved to 93 PP100, compared with 103 PP100 in 2016. They also outperformed imported brands for the second year running and for only the third time in the 31-year history of the study, J.D. Power said. For 2017, imported brands in the US collectively recorded a score of 99 PP100, compared with 106 PP100 for that group in 2016.
A trend that continued in 2017 from recent years – and demonstrated by Kia taking first place and Genesis taking second – was that South Korean automakers continued to outperform many European, Japanese, or domestic automakers. In the 2017 study, this is really about a strong Kia performance. Hyundai Motor Group had the largest number of models ranked highest in their respective segments, although each of these were Kia-brand products (Kia Cadenza, Kia Forte, Kia Niro, Kia Sorento, and Kia Soul). The Hyundai brand itself also made the top 10 and was well above the industry average. GM gained four model-level awards (Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Silverado HD, Chevrolet Sonic, and GMC Terrain), while BMW also achieved four (BMW 2-Series, BMW 4-Series, BMW X6, and Mini Cooper).
On the technology front, audio/communication/entertainment/navigation (ACEN) continued to be the area with the most PP100, J.D. Power reports, although it was also the category with the most improvement compared with 2016. In 2017, this category scored 22.8 PP100, an improvement of 2.7 PP100 compared with the 2016 results. One area that J.D. Power highlighted as a concern, however, was its features, controls, and displays category. The company reports that this was the only category to post a higher PP100 score in 2017 than in 2016. J.D. Power reports that equipment expected to provide the backbone for future autonomous vehicles was the cause of an increasing number of consumer-reported problems. Areas specifically cited by J.D. Power included adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, collision avoidance/alert systems, and blind-spot warning systems. J.D. Power maintains, "Consumers will need to be convinced that these systems are foolproof before they will give up driving control to autonomous vehicles."
J.D. Power says that 27 of 33 brands showed improvement in 2017 compared with 2016. The most improved brands were Mini, reporting 33 fewer PP100 than in 2016; Ram with a 28 PP100 improvement; Acura (19 PP100 improvement); Volvo (18 PP100 improvement); and Ford (16 PP100 improvement). Automotive News reports that during the presentation, Sargent said that Ford's improvement was a result of the move to the Sync 3 infotainment system, which outperforms the problematic MyFord Touch. On the flip side, Jaguar saw its PP100 score increase from 127 in 2016 to 148 in 2017, putting it second from bottom, while Mitsubishi saw its PP100 score grow by 15 to 131. Infiniti (up 4 PP100), Lexus (up 2 PP100), and Toyota (up 2 PP100) all saw initial quality slip, according to J.D. Power. Fiat remained last in the rankings with 163 PP100, although this was a respectable improvement compared with 174 PP100 in 2016. Sargent attributed most of the lower performances to launches of new products, which tend to have more issues than carryover products.
The industry average improved from 105 PP100 in 2016 to 97 PP100 in 2017; 18 brands were below-average performers and 14 performed above the industry average.
Outlook and implications
The IQS rankings remain subjective, and differentiation between "things broken" and "things gone wrong" is somewhat blurred. However, the study captures responses over time, and can be used to see if an automaker is improving, from a consumer perspective, or declining. The 2017 results demonstrate an improving situation for the automotive industry overall, although the increase in the PP100 score in the features, controls, and displays category is a cause for concern, J.D. Power says, because the issues driving the problems surround advanced driver assist systems. An element to remember is that the IQS does not meaningfully differentiate between "how well does it work?" versus "did it break?". This risks leading to rankings that give consumers a confusing message about the brands.
The J.D. Power IQS has been around for more than 30 years and has evolved to meet the changing characteristics of vehicles. IHS Markit has cautioned in the past that the IQS can be a somewhat misleading measure. The study can be used to see if an automaker is improving, from a consumer perspective, or declining. Looking at one year's results provides only a snapshot; looking at changes over time on the same issues can help one understand the direction in which the industry is moving and whether products are improving in the way they meet consumer expectations, or not.
IHS Markit's view is that the survey may be said to better capture perceived quality than actual physical quality. Many of the consumer-reported issues captured by the study are not mechanical failures or parts that have broken, but design quirks and issues with telematics and infotainment systems that consumers simply do not like or are not familiar with. In some cases, this includes transmission and other powertrain technology that simply behaves differently than customers are used to. Declines in the average PP100 for the past three years suggest that automakers are rapidly addressing both design and defect flaws. The average PP100 of 91 finally beats the score of 102 that the industry had fallen to in 2012, prior to a major change in survey questions and methodology in 2013.
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