2017 U.S. Initial Quality Study:New Car Quality at an All-Time High

Joseph Dobrian | Jun 21, 2017

Customer satisfaction with the quality of new vehicles is at its highest level ever, according to the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Initial Quality StudySM (IQS). In this year’s study, quality improves across seven of the eight categories measured, with 27 of the 33 brands in the study improving their quality compared with 2016. Overall customer satisfaction with new vehicles is up 8% from last year’s study.

Initial quality is reported as the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) during the first 90 days of ownership, with a lower score reflecting higher quality.


2017 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS)“Automotive manufacturers are responding to consumer feedback and producing vehicles of the highest quality,” said Dave Sargent, vice president, global automotive at J.D. Power. “The industry has improved significantly in each of the past three years. Today’s vehicles have more things that could go wrong but fewer things that actually do go wrong.”

Key Findings

Audio/communication/entertainment/navigation (ACEN) continues to be the highest-problem area for owners of new vehicles. However, it’s also the most improved category since 2016, with a score of 22.8 PP100 in 2017, down 2.7 PP100 from 2016.

The only category that expereinces a higher problem incidence in 2017 is Features, Controls and Displays. The largest increases in problems are for cruise control (primarily adaptive cruise); lane-departure warning; collision-avoidance/alert systems; and blind-spot warning. These features comprise some of the building blocks of autonomous vehicles, and automakers and suppliers should take note of this increase in consumer-reported problems. Consumer acceptance of autonomous vehicles will depend largely on a conviction that these systems are utterly reliable and foolproof.

The “Detroit Three” American automakers—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—outperform import brands for the second year in a row, but for only the third time since the study was first published in 1987. In 2017, domestic brands receive a score of 93 PP100, compared with 99 PP100 for import brands. Last year, domestic brands also had fewer problems (103 PP100) compared with import brands (106 PP100).

“The Initial Quality Study continues to demonstrate the critical importance of automakers responding to consumer feedback regarding vehicle quality,” Sargent said. “Any automaker that stands still will quickly start to fall behind. For consumers, the great news is that significant improvements are occurring in all model segments, meaning that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a quality vehicle.”

Kia Ranks Highest for a Second Consecutive Year

Kia ranks highest in overall initial quality for a second consecutive year with a score of 72 PP100. Genesis (77 PP100) ranks second overall followed by Porsche (78 PP100). Ford and Ram (86 PP100) tie for fourth. Mini is the most improved brand, with owners experiencing 33 PP100 fewer problems than in 2016. Other brands with strong improvement include Ram (28 PP100 improvement), Acura (19), Volvo (18), and Ford (16).

Segment-Leading Models

The parent company receiving the most model-level awards for its various brands is Hyundai (five model-level awards), followed by General Motors and BMW, each with four. Hyundai models that rank highest in their respective segments are the Kia Cadenza, Kia Forte, Kia Niro, Kia Sorento, and Kia Soul. General Motors models that rank highest in their segments are the Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Silverado HD, Chevrolet Sonic, and GMC Terrain. BMW models that rank highest in their segments are the BMW 2 Series, BMW 4 Series, BMW X6, and Mini Cooper. 

Other models that rank highest in their respective segments are the Chrysler Pacifica, Ford Expedition, Ford Mustang, Infiniti QX80, Lexus GS, Mercedes-Benz GLA, Nissan Frontier, Porsche 911, Porsche Macan, and Toyota Camry.

Consumer Tips

Based on the study, J.D. Power offers the following consumer tips:

  • Stay educated on new technological features and consider how problems with these features may affect your ownership experience.
  • Be aware that the more complicated and feature-laden a vehicle is, the greater the potential for problems—but sometimes the features are worth the possible hassle.
  • Drill deeper, when reading reports of problems with new vehicles, to pinpoint where the bulk of the problems are occurring.

About the Study

The 2017 U.S. Initial Quality Study is based on responses from nearly 80,000 purchasers and lessees of new 2017 model-year vehicles who were 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 2017.

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