Kia has been named the leading car brand in an industry-wide quality survey in the United States, the first time a mainstream company has claimed the top spot since Toyota in 1989.
The J D Power Initial Quality Study survey reported Kia had the fewest problems per 100 vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership, beating out second-place Porsche.
Kia’s top spot among brands follows a second-place finish in 2015. Porsche came in second this year, followed by Hyundai, Toyota and BMW.
The annual study, which many US buyers consult before buying a new car, looks at problems new owners have in the first 90 days with a vehicle. The lower the score, the higher the vehicle quality.
It analyses things like the driving experience, engine and transmission performance, along with a broad range of quality-related problems. The results not only act as a marker for cars sold in the US, but also for those in other markets, including New Zealand.
The J.D. Power Kia Motors NZ general manager Todd McDonald said the No. 1 ranking was an astonishing achievement. “It’s something that our dealers can convey with pride to their customers,” he said.
“It’s a result of Kia’s decade-long focus on craftsmanship and continuous improvement in design, quality and technology, and reflects the voice of our customers, which is the ultimate affirmation.”
The Kia Sportage SUV (top) and Kia Soul models achieved the best J D Power scores in their respective segments. Kia has made enormous strides in mechanical, styling and fit-and-finish quality on vehicles such as the Optima sedan, Soul hatchback, and Sportage.
Kia scored well ahead of its South Korean cousin Hyundai. The two brands have common ownership and cooperate on vehicle platforms, a design center, parts and more.
The study also found that US domestic brands out-performed their imported rivals for just the second time in the study’s 30-year history.
“It’s a banner year for the industry,” Renee Stephens, vice president of US automotive quality at J.D. Power, said in an interview. “We’re really seeing tremendous improvement in so many areas.”
Stephens said carmakers improved vehicle quality in each of the eight segments measured, including longstanding problem areas like the category for audio, entertainment, connectivity and navigation.
She said that new driver assist technologies, like blind-spot warning and lane-keeping assist, have fairly low problem rates.
“Tracking our data over the past several years, it has become clear that carmakers are listening to the customer, identifying pain points and are focused on continuous improvement,” Stephens.
“Even as they add more content, including advanced technologies that have had a reputation for causing problems, overall quality continues to improve.”