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Korean car manufacturers Genesis, Kia, Hyundai led JD Power Quality Survey

Genesis Mint

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Once dominant Japanese brands such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda have taken a mighty fall in quality charts, topped on JD Powers' closely followed Initial Quality Study by two of the three major ones in Detroit as well as South Korea's top carmarks.

Chinese car manufacturers Genesis, Kia and Hyundai exclaimed the industry with the top three peaks and expanded their gap in the rankings of brands such as Toyota and Lexus that had long been in the lead in the annual study. Not a European brand, including the vaunted Mercedes-Benz and BMW, earned brands over the industry average this year.

Ford, its Lincoln brand and General Motors Chevrolet ranked No. 4, 5 and 6, respectively, followed by Nissan and Fiat Chrysler's Dodge.

A year of quality improvements came to a frightening stop last year, according to JD Power. While most manufacturers were able to solve problems with the infotainment systems that had cut their results in recent years, there was an unexpected increase in classic mechanical problems with engines, brakes, suspension and paint.

Long known as quality laggards, Korean car manufacturers have made major improvements over the past few years, according to Dave Sargent, JD Power's Car Research Manager. It was evident not only in the overall performance of the three brands, but the fact that the Hyundai Motor Group, which includes Genesis and Kia, as well as Hyundai, had six individual segment winners, more than any other manufacturer.

2018 Kia Rio

Mack Hogan | CNBC

It included Genesis G70, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Forte, Kia Rio, Kia Sedona and Kia Sportage.

It has helped the Koreans to improve their individual images, and turn into increasing sales for Hyundai and Kia, although high-line Genesis, just recently spun by Hyundai, has hit the market largely due to the lack of SUVs .

The 2019 report should also help strengthen Detroit's long-standing reputation. Mainstream Ford and the high lines of the Lincoln department just came behind the three Korean brands. It reflects a significant turn for Ford. Earlier in the decade, it had occurred in the survey due to transmission problems and problems with its high-tech Sync infotainment system.

General Motors also did well, its Chevrolet brand comes in sixth, just behind Ford. And GM had five segment winners, more than any company, except Hyundai Motor Group: Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Equinox, Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Silverado HD and Chevrolet Tahoe.

The 2020 Chevy Silverado

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Among the Japanese, only Nissan, Lexus and Toyota managed to beat the top 10, seventh, ninth and tenth respectively. Well-known brands like Mazda, Honda and Acura all ranked below the industry average, struggling Mitsubishi ranked third from the bottom among the 32 brands covered by the 2019 survey.

The study focuses on issues the buyers experience during the first 90 days of ownership, reports the results against problems per 100 cars. To put things in perspective, Industrial Quality Manager Genesis had a score of what JD Power calls 63 PP100 this year, compared to 83 for Detroit leader Lincoln, 86 for Japan's highest score, Nissan and 90 for Toyota.

The industry averaged 93 problems per 100 cars. Mercedes-Benz missed it slowly with a score of 94, and Mitsubishi had 121. Jaguar, the worst of the 32 marks, had an average of 130 problems.

There is still just over one complaint per vehicle, on average. And the best individual product in the study, the iconic Porsche 911, had only 58 problems per 100, which means hardly a problem for any other sports car.

But Sargent noted that "some traditional issues crept up this year, including paint failures, brake and suspension sounds, non-starter engines, and" check engine light "come early in the ownership experience."

A top of it, he added. "More people have problems with their advanced driver systems, which are crucial to building consumer confidence in future automated cars."

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