Hyundai Does Well in J.D. Power INITIAL QUALITY STUDY

Hyundai Does Well in J.D. Power IQS; Lexus Back on Top

By Jim Henry | June 23rd, 2009 @ 7:21 am

Time for a brief flurry of reporting and analysis of the 2009 J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, after which the results will sink from public view for another year, except for advertising blurbs, which many consumers discount anyway.

It’s too bad there’s so much spin control, profiteering and drum-beating surrounding J.D. Power surveys, because the results really do provide some sort of reflection, however distorted, of how car companies are doing at pleasing their customers.

Here’s my short list of noteworthy IQS results, which were released June 22:

Lexus is back in the No. 1 position. This represents “The World Turned Right-Side Up,” since Lexus has aced IQS almost since its debut 20 years ago. Lexus fell to No. 3 last year, behind Porsche and Infiniti.

Hyundai was No. 4, and the leading non-luxury brand, which Hyundai will be quick to promote, assuming Hyundai is willing to pay J.D. Power’s eye-watering fee for using the results in advertising. Hyundai is on a roll in the United States, but its sister Kia division has some catching up to do.

Ford and Chevrolet came within an ace of reaching the 100 Problems Per 100 Vehicles benchmark, which was once owned pretty much exclusively by Lexus. It will take years of water dripping on a stone for U.S. brands to wear down their reputation for poor quality, but at least they’re moving in the right direction.

Yesterday’s J.D. Power press release – which goes a long way towards spinning news coverage of the results – highlighted improved scores for domestic brands, despite the turmoil in Detroit.

For all its flaws, IQS is at least some sort of third-party measurement of quality. As such, it’s way ahead of whatever quality measures the car companies would provide to the public if it were up to them.

To read the car company pronouncements, you would think that IQS was like Lake Wobegon, where all the children are above average.

But over time, the survey results really do affect products, and the car companies really do want to score well. After the short-lived hoopla dies down, auto industry quality gnomes will dissect the results and the results for their competitors and keep chipping away, deep under the auto industry mountains.

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