Kia puts an end to a 27-year reign for premium brands at the top of the J.D Power's Initial Quality Study.

Kia’s slogan is “The Power to Surprise” and the South Koreans have been constantly doing that for the last several years. The 2016 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS) released by J.D. Power comes to further confirm Kia’s boost in quality in recent times, managing to become the first non-premium automaker in 27 years to claim the top spot in initial quality.

Last year, Kia took second place with 86 problems recorded per 100 vehicles (PP100) and now the number of issues has gone down to 83, thus allowing Kia to take the crown from Porsche which came in second with 84 problems. Kia now joins Toyota as the only non-premium automakers to have finished in first place in the three-decade history of J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study.

Kia’s sister brand Hyundai finished third with 92 problems per 100 cars, being closely followed by Toyota (93), BMW (94), Chevy (95) and Buick, Lexus, Lincoln all with 96. At the other end of the spectrum we find Smart dead last with no less than 216 PP100 while on the penultimate spot at a considerable distance is Fiat with 174 PP100.

Overall, J.D. Power says new-vehicle quality has increased by six percent which represents the biggest jump since 2009. For the first time ever, non-premium marques have fewer issues (104 PP100) than premium ones (108 PP100) while the most improved brands are Chrysler and Jeep as both of them reduced the number of problems by 28 PP100 compared to last year.

J.D. Power’s 2016 U.S. Initial Quality Study was elaborated based on responses from more than 80,000 purchasers and lessees of 2016MY cars surveyed after 90 days of ownership. Those who took the survey had to answer a total of 233 questions organized into eight problem categories created to provide a better identification of the most common issues new-car owners are facing.

Check out the images and links below to find out all the results.

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Gallery: J.D. Power IQS has some interesting shake-ups -- Kia beats out Porsche!

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Kia Ranks Highest among Nameplates, Ending 27-Year Reign for Premium Brands

New-vehicle quality improves 6%, double the 3% rate of improvement in 2015 and the largest increase since 2009, according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Initial Quality StudySM (IQS), released today.

The study, now in its 30th year, examines problems experienced by vehicle owners during the first 90 days of ownership. Initial quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality.

Quality improves across all eight problem categories measured in the study, with 21 of the 33 brands included in the study improving their quality in 2016 and one remaining the same.

“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. Even as they add more content, including advanced technologies that have had a reputation for causing problems, overall quality continues to improve.”

Following are some of the study’s key findings:

  • U.S. Domestic Automakers Show Strong Improvement: For just the second time in the 30-year history of the study, U.S. domestic brands collectively have lower problem levels than all their import counterparts combined. All three U.S. domestic automakers post year-over-year quality improvements. The “Detroit Three” achieve a combined average of 103 PP100, improving 10% from 2015, which is double the improvement rate of the import brands at 106 PP100. The last time U.S. domestic brands outpaced imports was in 2010, when they held a 1 PP100 advantage (108 PP100 vs. 109 PP100, respectively).
  • Non-Premium Brands Have Fewer Problems: For the first time since 2006, non-premium brands have fewer problems (104 PP100) than premium brands (108 PP100).
  • High Quality = High Loyalty: Expected reliability remains the most important consideration when purchasing a new vehicle, cited by 49% of owners. J.D. Power has studied consumer behavior from when they purchase or lease their new vehicle through when they are back in the market for their next vehicle in order to measure the impact initial quality has on brand loyalty.[1] Among owners who experience no problems with their vehicle in the first 90 days, 54% stay with the same brand for their next vehicle. Loyalty drops to 50% among owners who experience one problem with their vehicle and to 45% among those who experience three or more problems.

“There is a direct correlation between the number of problems a customer has with their new vehicle and the decisions they make when it comes time to purchase or lease their next car or truck,” said Stephens. “While a small drop in actual loyalty may not sound like much, a percentage point drop in share can mean millions of dollars in lost revenue to an automaker.”

Highest-Ranked Nameplates and Models

Kia ranks highest in initial quality with a score of 83 PP100, the first time in 27 years that a non-premium brand has topped the rankings. It is also the second consecutive year that Kia, which ranked second in 2015, has led all non-premium makes in initial quality.

Porsche (84 PP100) ranks second among nameplates, followed by Hyundai (92 PP100), Toyota (93 PP100) and BMW (94 PP100).

Chrysler and Jeep are the most improved brands, each reducing the number of problems by 28 PP100 from 2015. 

General Motors receives seven model-level awards, followed by Toyota Motor Corporation with six and Hyundai Motor Company and Volkswagen AG, each with four.

  • General Motors models that rank highest in their respective segments are the Buick Cascada; Chevrolet Equinox; Chevrolet Silverado HD; Chevrolet Silverado LD; Chevrolet Spark; Chevrolet Tahoe; and GMC Terrain.
  • Toyota Motor Corporation models that rank highest in their segment are the Lexus CT; Lexus GS; Scion tC; Toyota Camry; Toyota Corolla; and Toyota Highlander.
  • Hyundai Motor Company models that rank highest in their segment are the Hyundai Accent; Hyundai Azera; Kia Soul; and Kia Sportage.
  • Volkswagen AG models that rank highest in their segment are the Audi Q3, Audi TT, Porsche Macan and Porsche 911.

Plant Quality Awards

Toyota Motor Corporation’s Georgetown 3 (Kentucky) plant, which produces the Lexus ES, and its Kyushu 2 (Japan) plant, which produces the Lexus ES and Lexus RX, each receive the Platinum Plant Quality Award in a tie for producing models with the fewest defects or malfunctions. Plant quality awards are based solely on defects and malfunctions and exclude design-related problems.

Porsche’s Stuttgart (Germany) plant, which produces the Porsche 911 and Porsche Boxster, receives the Gold Plant Quality Award in the Europe/Africa region.

The 2016 U.S. Initial Quality Study is based on responses from more than 80,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2016 model-year vehicles surveyed after 90 days of ownership. The study is based on a 233-question battery organized into eight problem categories designed to provide manufacturers with information to facilitate the identification of problems and drive product improvement. The study was fielded from February through May 2016.