Detroit brands gain in J.D. Power initial quality study

Owners of Detroit-based brands reported fewer new-car problems than those who bought import models for only the second time in the history of the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, released Wednesday.

The Detroit brands improved 10 percent from last year's study and collectively averaged 103 problems per 100 vehicles, compared with 106 for all foreign-based brands. Three domestic brands -- Chevrolet, Buick and Lincoln -- finished in the top 10 of brand rankings.

Overall however, Kia topped all brands, the first time in 27 years that a non-luxury brand came in first. Last year's winner, Porsche, was second. Hyundai was third and Toyota fourth.

Jeep and Chrysler were the two most improved brands, helping to boost the score for Detroit-based nameplates. However, both continued to rank below the overall industry average.

The annual survey asked 80,000 people about problems they had encountered within 90 days of buying or leasing a new 2016 model. Overall, quality for all brands improved by 6 percent over the 2015 results with an industry average of 105 problems per 100 cars vs. 112 last year. "Manufacturers currently are making some of the highest-quality products we have ever seen," says Renee Stephens , vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power.

Other findings of the J.D. Power study:

  • High quality is not limited to high-priced cars. For the first time since 2006, mainstream brands tallied fewer problems overall (104 problems per 100 vehicles) than luxury brands (108 problems per 100).
  • Fewer problems means more loyalty. Owners who experience no problems with their cars in the first 90 days return to the same brand for their next car at a 54 percent rate. With owners who had three or more problems, that rate drops to 45 percent.
  • General Motors had the most winners among individual models. General Motors had seven Buick, Chevrolet and GMC models ranked as best in individual model categories with seven. Toyota Motor Corp. was next with six. For a full list of individual model winners, click here.
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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.