Driver-assist systems cause headaches for new-car owners

Keith Laing
The Detroit News
The Genesis G70 was the top-ranked compact premium car. The Genesis brand was No. 1 overall.

As adaptive cruise-control and other driver-assistance features become more common — and complex — problems with those systems are replacing infotainment centers as a source of headaches for new-car owners.

For the first time in five years, overall quality rankings did not rise in J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Initial Quality Study. New-vehicle owners reported 93 problems per 100 vehicles during the first 90 days of ownership of 2019 vehicles across all brands, unchanged from last year.

More people are having problems with advanced safety features that are stepping stones to fully self-driving cars, said Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. 

“Automakers continue to make progress in areas like infotainment that attract a lot of consumer attention,” Sargent said. “However, some traditional problems crept up this year including paint imperfections, brake and suspension noises, engines not starting and the ‘check engine’ light coming on early in the ownership experience. Also, more people are having issues with their advanced driver-assistance systems, which are critical for building consumer trust in future automated vehicles.”

Infotainment systems remain the most problematic category. However, this area improved for the fourth consecutive year, led by fewer glitches with built-in voice-recognition systems.

Hyundai Motor Group's luxury Genesis Motors brand achieved the highest ranking in new-car quality among all car brands in the 2019 U.S. Initial Quality Study, while Kia ranked No. 2 and Hyundai was No. 3. It was the second consecutive year the rankings were topped by three South Korean brands.

Ford topped all U.S. brands at No. 4, with Lincoln at 5th, Chevrolet at 6th, Dodge at 8th, Buick at 11th, GMC at 12th, Cadillac at 17th, Jeep at 18th, Ram at 21st and Chrysler at 25th. 

General Motors Co. received five awards for individual models. The Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Equinox, Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Silverado HD and Chevrolet Tahoe topped their respective segments.

The Chevrolet Equinox was the top-ranked compact SUV. The Chevrolet brand rank sixth overall.

Ford Motor Co. had two models rank highest in their segments: the Ford Fusion and Ford Ranger.

The Ford Ranger was the top-ranked midsize pickup. The Ford brand ranked fourth overall, the best of any domestic brand.

Hyundai Motor Group had the most models that rank highest in their respective segments, with six: the Genesis G70, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Forte, Kia Rio, Kia Sedona and Kia Sportage.

Among the top brands, Genesis drivers reported 63 problems per 100 vehicles, while Kia drivers experienced 70 problems and Hyundai drivers reported 71 problems. The most dependable model was the Porsche 911, with just 58 problems per 100 cars.

Detroit automakers received above-average quality scores compared to their foreign-owned counterparts: Ford (83 problems 100 cars ), Lincoln (84 problems 100 cars), Chevrolet (85 problems per 100 cars), Dodge (90 problems per 100 cars) and Buick (92 problems per 100 cars) all beat the industry-average quality rate of 93 problems.

J.D. Power said Land Rover was the most-improved brand; its owners reported 37 fewer problems per 100 cars than than their counterparts in 2018 did. Other brands with strong improvements included Jaguar, which improved by 18 problems per 100 vehicles, and Dodge and Volvo, which improved by eight problems per 100 vehicles. Dodge's No. 8 ranking was its highest ever in the survey.

(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing

2019 J.D. Power Initial Quality Rankings 

  1.  Genesis
  2.  Kia
  3. Hyundai
  4. Ford
  5. Lincoln
  6. Chevrolet
  7.  Nissan
  8. Dodge
  9. Lexus
  10. Toyota
  11. Buick
  12. GMC
  13. Mazda
  14. Mercedes-Benz
  15. Porsche
  16. Honda
  17. Cadillac
  18.  Jeep
  19. Infiniti
  20. BMW
  21. Ram
  22. Audi
  23. Mini
  24. Acura
  25. Chrysler
  26. Subaru
  27. Volkswagen
  28. Volvo
  29. Alfa Romeo
  30. Mitsubishi
  31. Land Rover
  32. Jaguar

Segment winners

  • Small car: Kia Rio
  • Small premium car: BMW 2 Series
  • Compact car: Kia Forte
  • Compact sporty car: Mini Cooper
  • Compact premium car: Genesis G70
  • Midsize car: Chevrolet Malibu (tie), Ford Fusion (tie)
  • Midsize sporty car: Dodge Challenger
  • Midsize premium car: Mercedes-Benz CLS
  • Large car: Nissan Maxima
  • Small SUV: Kia Sportage
  • Compact SUV: Chevrolet Equinox
  • Compact premium SUV: BMW X4
  • Midsize pickup: Ford Ranger
  • Midsize SUV: Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Midsize premium SUV: Lexus RX
  • Mercedes-Benz GLE Lincoln Nautilus
  • Minivan: Kia Sedona
  • Large SUV: Chevrolet Tahoe
  • Toyota Sequoia
  • Large premium SUV: Cadillac Escalade 
  • Large light-duty pickup: Nissan Titan
  • Large heavy-duty pickup: Chevrolet Silverado HD