Detroit's auto brands climb in quality rankings

2017 Chevrolet Silverado 1500

General Motors

For the second straight year, Detroit-based brands outscored foreign nameplates with fewer new-car problems, according to the J.D. Power initial quality study released today.

The U.S. brands averaged 93 problems per 100 vehicles (down from 103 last year) vs. 99 for import brands. Four Detroit names -- Ford, Ram, Chevrolet and Lincoln -- finished in the top 10 in brand rankings.

Overall, however, Kia topped them all, also for the second straight year. Hyundai's Genesis luxury brand ranked second and Porsche third.

Ford and Ram, which tied for fourth in brand rankings, are among the most improved performers from last year, along with Mini.          

The annual survey asked 80,000 people about problems they had in the first 90 days after buying or leasing a new 2017 vehicle. Overall, the quality level was the highest ever, improving eight percent from last year. 

"The industry has improved significantly in each of the past three years," said Dave Sargent, vice president for global automotive at J.D. Power. "Today's vehicles have more things that could go wrong but fewer things that actually do go wrong."

Despite that improvement, technology in vehicles remains the most problematical:

  • Entertainment, navigation and communication (connections for cell phones and e-mail) make up the largest problem category in this survey.
  • New safety features are an issue. Lane-departure warning, collision-alert and -avoidance systems and adaptive cruise control -- which adjusts to keep your vehicle a certain distance from the one ahead -- are all problem areas. This was the only category to worsen since last year.
  • That's a warning signal for developers of autonomous cars. The new safety features are first steps toward self-driving vehicles. "Consumers will need to be convinced that these systems are foolproof before they will give up driving control to autonomous vehicles," the study said.

As usual, the Power study ranks individual vehicles as well as brands. Then it tallies the winners in each category by manufacturer.

Hyundai led that list with five winners (Kia Forte compact car, Kia Cadenza large car, Kia Sorento midsize SUV, Kia Soul compact/multipurpose vehicle and Kia Niro small SUV).

General Motors came in second with four category winners (Chevrolet Silverado pickup, Silverado HD heavy-duty pickup, Chevrolet Sonic small car and GMC Terrain compact SUV).

J.D. Power has the full list of individual segment 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.