It doesn’t seem so very long ago that Hyundai and Kia were considered to be a bit of a laughing stock in the automotive industry.
Sure, they made cars that were affordable, but low cost very often meant low quality.
It was the Japanese automakers in particular who seemed to take the most joy in pointing out the flaws of Korean made vehicles.
What a difference a decade makes, though, as car quality studies now show that Korean automobile brands (Kia and Hyundai) are scoring at the top of the rankings, while the Japanese are falling off the pace.
The question that has to be asked is this: who’s laughing now?
The survey in question was a 2015 US-based questionnaire that focused on overall vehicle quality.
Hyundai and Kia took top marks in the survey, placing them above the Japanese, who saw their scores dip below average for the first time in 29 years.
Not only did Hyundai and Kia land at the top, they won by a margin that was the widest ever seen in a J.D. Power initial vehicle quality study.
It was Kia who bested all non-premium brands for the first time in the history of the study.
It was a meteoric rise to the top for Kia, and one that was very heavily helped by the performance of the Soul and Sorento, two of the best-selling vehicles for the Koreans.
The Rio, Optima, Sportage, Cadenza, and Sedona all ranked in the top 3 of their respective categories.
The industry as a whole experienced an improvement of 3%, moving to 112 problems per 100 2015 model year vehicles.
The Korean were tops with 90, while the European brands came in at 113.
US and Japanese models were both at 114 problems per 100.
The automotive industry pays more attention to long-term dependability of their vehicles, which is also studied by J.D. Power.
The vehicles in that study are tracked over the first 3 years, and it was Lexus, the luxury brand of Toyota Motor Corp that landed on top for the 4th consecutive year.
The initial quality study that looks at issues reported within the first 90 days of ownership saw the top 3 come out with the Volkswagen Group’s luxury brand Porsche on top, followed by Kia, and Jaguar, which is part of Tata Motor Ltd.
The Japanese brands have long been used as the measuring stick for quality, and while they did see a reduction in the number of issues, the improvement was not enough to keep pace with the industry as a whole.
Of the 10 Japanese brands in the study, only 4 saw an improvement.
Entertainment and electronics issues were again the number one problem area for consumers, with Bluetooth pairing and voice recognition the most commonly reported problems.
Car manufacturer rankings
High quality: Porsche topped the list with 80 problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Kia (86), Jaguar (93), Hyundai (95), and Infiniti, Nissan’s luxury brand, with 97.
Low quality: Sitting at the bottom of the list was Fiat Chrysler’s NV Fiat brand, which logged a worrisome 161 problems per 100 vehicles.