2018's 5 Best (and 5 Worst) Cars for Initial Quality

Paul Ausick

Initial quality for new cars purchased rose for a fourth consecutive year in 2018 to an all-time industry-average high of 93. Three South Korean automakers topped the latest list as Hyundai joined top-ranked Genesis and second-ranked Kia by displacing last year’s third-ranked Porsche.

The top U.S. brands were Ford from Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), ranked fourth behind Porsche; General Motors Co.’s (NYSE: GM) Chevrolet brand, ranked fifth; and Ford’s Lincoln brand, which ranked sixth.

The data were reported Wednesday in the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Initial Quality Study. The study examines problems reported by vehicle owners during the first 90 days of ownership. As with golf, lower scores are better. The 2018 industry average score of 93 is four points better than the 2017 average, 12 points better than the 2016 average and 19 points better than the 2015 average.

Dave Sargent, vice-president of J.D. Power’s Global Automotive group, said:

There’s no question that most automakers are doing a great job of listening to consumers and are producing vehicle quality of the highest caliber. That said, some vehicle owners are still finding problems. As vehicles become more complex and automated, it is critical that consumers have complete confidence in automakers’ ability to deliver fault-free vehicles.

The Detroit Three — Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU) — all improved by more than the industry-average four points. FCA’s score rose the most, seven points, while both Ford and GM posted five-point improvements. FCA’s improvement may have had something to do with J.D. Power excluding the company’s poorly rated Fiat brand this year.

Ford led all automakers with five model-level awards as the highest-ranked vehicles in their categories: Expedition, Mustang, Super-Duty pickup, Lincoln Continental and Lincoln MKC. GM topped three categories with the Buick Envision, Chevy Silverado and the Silverado HD. FCA’s Dodge Grand Caravan was rated highest in the minivan group.

In all, 15 brands posted initial quality scores that were better than average, and of that total, eight were luxury brands. A total of 16 brands scored below average.

The top five brands in initial quality and their number of problems per 100 vehicles were:

  1. Genesis: 68
  2. Kia: 72
  3. Hyundai: 74
  4. Porsche: 79
  5. Ford: 81

The five lowest scoring brands and their scores were:

  1. Land Rover: 160
  2. Jaguar: 148
  3. Volvo: 122
  4. Subaru: 115
  5. Mitsubishi: 111

Methodology: J.D. Power’s 2018 U.S. Initial Quality Study is based on responses from more than 75,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2018 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 2018.