Auto Build Quality Survey Shows Surprising Results

J.D. Power Survey puts Kia and Jaguar in top five for dependability.

J.D. Power conducts annual quality surveys for automobiles across the world. They’re measured by the number of defects per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score indicating higher quality. The study examines problems experienced by vehicle owners during the first 90 days of ownership.

This year, JD Power’s survey discovered a seismic shift in quality of new vehicles. 

Information, safety and electronic systems in vehicles was the top issue reported. This is likely due to their complex designs and implementation. Despite this, the auto manufacturing industry is experiencing a three percent year-over-year improvement in initial quality, averaging 112 PP100 compared with 116 PP100 in 2014.

“Smartphones have set high consumer expectations of how well technology should work, and automakers are struggling to match that success in their new vehicles,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power. “However, we are seeing some OEMs make important improvements along the way. What’s clear is that they can’t afford to wait for the next generation of models to launch before making important updates to these systems.”

According to the results, Korean brands are far ahead of the rest of the world, averaging 90 PP100. American manufacturers have tied in initial vehicle quality with their Japanese counterparts, each scoring 114 PP100, with Europeans (113 PP100) surpassing them. This is a major shift as the Japanese have owned initial quality as a category for decades.

Although Japanese brands overall experience a 2 PP100 improvement from 2014, this has proven insufficient to keep pace with the industry. Overall, Japanese makes have fallen below the industry average for the first time in the 29-year history of the U.S. Initial Quality Study. Only four of the 10 Japanese brands included in the study posted an improvement.

Top brand names saw Porsche at number one. Shockingly, Kia – Known as the Korean automaker with a focus on more affordable, simpler cars – managed to pull the number two spot. Kia’s step up in the rankings might have to do with it avoiding issues found in more connected cars available today, giving its vehicles less defects.

Another surprise puts Jaguar at number three on the list, with only 93 issues per 100 vehicles. British models were historically notorious for poor build quality and electrical system issues. This shows how far the British have come in making quality vehicles. Fourth place belongs to Hyundai, with Infinity coming in at fifth.

The number one assembly plant in the world today, according to the J.D. Power survey, is BMW’s Rosslyn South Africa plant, producing the BMW 3 series. The North America region sees Toyota’s Cambridge, Canada plant topping the list. Asia’s Kia Motors Gwangju plant at number one.

It seems there is no longer one nationality or group that dominates in the manufacturing world anymore. It’s getting harder and harder to find a truly “bad” vehicle these days.

To learn more about J.D. Power’s survey, visit

Written by

James Anderton

Jim Anderton is the Director of Content for Mr. Anderton was formerly editor of Canadian Metalworking Magazine and has contributed to a wide range of print and on-line publications, including Design Engineering, Canadian Plastics, Service Station and Garage Management, Autovision, and the National Post. He also brings prior industry experience in quality and part design for a Tier One automotive supplier.