Detroit rises in J.D. Power's new quality survey

South Korea is making news again -- but this time it's not for being at the center of a potential major shift in geopolitics. However, it is for something that many Americans do pay a lot of attention to: the annual J.D. Power Initial Quality Study that was released today. Three Korean brands topped the rankings for fewest new-car problems, but Detroit-based brands also placed four marques in the top 10.

Genesis, Kia and Hyundai -- all part of Hyundai Motor Group -- had the win, place and show spots. Perennially well-ranked brand Porsche placed fourth, and its Porsche 911 had the fewest problems of any individual model.

Among Detroit-based models, Ford ranked fifth, Chevrolet sixth, Lincoln seventh and Ram pickups eighth (tied with Lexus). Nissan was 10th, while other mainstream Japanese brands Toyota and Honda finished below average.

All three Detroit-based parent corporations -- Ford (F), General Motors (GM) and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) -- improved their quality ratings from last year at a greater rate than average.

The annual survey asked 75,000 people about problems they had encountered in the first 90 days after buying or leasing a new 2018 vehicle for personal use. Models and brands are then ranked by the number of problems reported per 100 vehicles.

Although improving, vehicle technology remained the biggest problem area.

  • A nagging issue in the last few studies, infotainment systems improved from last year's ratings. But problems with built-in voice recognition and Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones remain.
  • While still at a low level, problems with driver-assistance technology continue to increase. Systems like lane-departure warning and front-collision avoidance showed up with 20 percent more problems than in last year's report.
  • Lack of confidence in the technology could slow the advance toward driverless cars. "As vehicles become more complex and automated, it is critical that consumers have complete confidence in automakers' ability to deliver fault-free vehicles," said Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power.

As usual, the Power study ranks individual vehicles as well as brands. The 2018 Porsche 911, with 48 reported problems per 100 vehicles, had the lowest rate of problems in the study since 2013.

Having ranked the winners in each category, the Power researchers then tally those results by manufacturer.

Ford ranked first with five winners: The Expedition large SUV, Mustang sporty car, Super Duty heavy-duty  pickup, Lincoln Continental midsize luxury car and Lincoln MKC compact SUV.

Hyundai Motor Group had four winners: Genesis G90 large luxury car, Hyundai Tucson small SUV, Kia Rio small car and Kia Sorento midsize SUV.

Here's the full list of individual model winners.

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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.