Every year, J.D. Power conducts an Initial Quality Study of new car models and ranks them based on the number of problems it finds with each vehicle. The study has historically been an industry benchmark for quality assurance and is an accurate predictor of long term reliability of specific models of new vehicles. Therefore, this list often influences buyers' decisions for new vehicles. It examines different vehicle models owned for 90 days via several categories: exterior, seats, driving experience, engine/transmission, features/controls/display, interior, heating/ventilation/air conditioning, and audio/communication/entertainment/navigation.
Why does it matter?
The results of the study show which models are likely to be the most problem-free for new prospective buyers. The study found that new types of cars - as opposed to models that were more or less the same as previous years - had more complications with up-and-coming technology. Often, Bluetooth and voice recognition caused issues for surveyors. Another common problem found this year was vehicle performance in harsh weather conditions.
The study's conclusions are important for those looking for a new car, as consumers' brand loyalty is either made or broken in the first few months of owning a vehicle. New buyers are not looking to deal with vehicle maintenance so soon after buying a car.
"Even problems experienced in the first 90 days correlate strongly with ultimate repurchase behavior," said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, in a press release. "These early problems can set the tone for the entire ownership period and still have an effect years later when consumers replace their vehicle."
A few automakers come out on top
J.D. Power published several charts with results of the study, one of which compiles each individual model in the study into larger brand categories. They found that the top five most reliable brands for 2014 were Porsche, Jaguar, Lexus, Hyundai and Toyota, respectively. Chevrolet, Kia, BMW, Honda and Lincoln made it into the top 10 quality manufacturers as well. All of these sit far above the industry quality average, 116, as measured in problems per 100 vehicles. Porsche had an average of 74, while Lincoln clocked in at 109.
Another chart ranks the top three car models per segment. The highest-ranked small and compact cars were the Hyundai Accent and Elantra. The best midsize car, according to J.D. Power, is the Chevrolet Malibu, and the best large car is the Kia Cadenza.