Kia is new king of J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study

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Kia is new king of J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study
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A new reliability study by J.D. Power and Associates finds cars are just about the most dependable they’ve ever been, no matter whether you’re talking about domestic or import vehicles.

Read more: Top 6 auto insurers in 2016

High-quality products from every corner of the auto market

The J.D. Power 2016 Initial Quality Ratings & Awards measures the level of problems owners encounter in new cars after they’ve had them for 90 days.

Top brand honors in the survey go to Kia, followed by Porsche, Hyundai and Toyota. Rounding out the top five is BMW.

‘Manufacturers are currently making some of the highest quality products we’ve ever seen,’ said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power. ‘Tracking our data over the past several years, it has become clear that automakers are listening to the customer, identifying pain points and are focused on continuous improvement.’

To arrive at its findings, J.D. Power asked new owners about 233 common problems that fell into the following eight categories:

  • Exterior
  • Seats
  • Driving Experience 
  • Engine/Transmission
  • Features/Controls/Displays (FCD)
  • Interior
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
  • Audio/Communication/Entertainment/Navigation (ACEN)

A look at the scores

The J.D. Power study assesses how many problems occur for a given nameplate per 100 new vehicles.

So Kia owners reported 83 problems per 100 cars, which beats the industry average of 105 problems per 100 cars.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Smart Car (a Mercedes-Benz product) had a whopping 216 problems per 100 cars. That means an average of two or more complaints by every owner who was surveyed in the first 90 days of ownership!

Overall, though, 21 of the 33 brands in the study improved their showing since the last tally. Most improved brand honors this year go to Chrysler and Jeep.Kia is new king of J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study

The reality is that the car market is so competitive that manufacturers have to churn out good cars just to survive. There are so many cars available with a price tag of the mid-teens to high-teens that are better than a fancy car was 20 years ago. Cars made today are much safer and get much better fuel economy.

Now, the inevitable question: Since newer cars are so reliable, so should you buy a new car before you need one? Well, if you have great wealth and no debts in your life, then it’s fine. But if you just paid off your old car, Clark would rather you keep driving it until the wheels fall off.

Too many people ditch cars because they’re bored with them. That’s the wrong reason to get out of a car. Do it only when it comes time in your natural buying cycle when your old wheels are well past the point of repair.

Here’s another look at the J.D. Power findings broken out by segment of the auto industry:

Top 3 models by segment

City Car: Chevrolet Spark

Small Car: Hyundai Accent, Chevrolet Sonic, Kia Rio

Small Premium Car: Lexus CT, BMW 2 Series, Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

Compact Car: Toyota Corolla, Kia Forte, Hyundai Elantra

Compact Sporty Car: Buick Cascada (tie), Scion tC (tie), Hyundai Veloster

Compact MPV: Kia Soul

Compact Premium Car: Lincoln MKZ, Lexus ES, BMW 3 Series

Compact Premium Sporty Car: Audi TT, Porsche Boxster, Porsche Cayman

Midsize Car: Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord

Midsize Sporty Car: Dodge Challenger

Minivan: Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan

Midsize Premium Car: Lexus GS, Audi A7, Hyundai Genesis

Midsize Premium Sporty Car: Porsche 911

Large Car: Hyundai Azera, Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Impala

Small SUV: Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Buick Encore

Small Premium SUV: Audi Q3, BMW X1

Compact SUV: Chevrolet Equinox (tie), GMC Terrain (tie), Ford Escape

Compact Premium SUV: Porsche Macan, Lincoln MKC, BMW X3

Midsize SUV: Toyota Highlander, Kia Sorento, Nissan Murano

Midsize Premium SUV: BMW X5, BMW X6, Lexus RX

Midsize Pickup: Nissan Frontier, GMC Canyon, Chevrolet Colorado

Large SUV: Chevrolet Tahoe, Toyota Sequoia, Ford Expedition

Large Premium SUV: Lincoln Navigator, Infiniti QX80, Land Rover Range Rover

Large Light Duty Pickup: Chevrolet Silverado LD, GMC Sierra LD

Large Heavy Duty Pickup: Chevrolet Silverado HD, Ford Super Duty, GMC Sierra HD

Read more: This pickup truck has traveled over 700,000 miles and still going strong!

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the New York Times #1 bestseller Living Large in Lean Times. As a single widowed parent of two young children, he strives to bring unique savings tips to men and women like him who must face life without their spouses. He can be reached at [email protected]
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