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August 20, 2020

Honda is Best in Initial Quality, Mazda Most Improved

While most people associate the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study or IQS for vehicles available in the U.S. market, did you know they hold the same for Japan as well? Given the reputation of Japanese carmakers in making high-quality vehicles, which carmaker has had the least problems during the first 90 days of ownership? Honda.

In the J.D. Power 2020 Japan Initial Quality Study or IQS, new vehicle owners report fewer problems overall, meaning initial vehicle quality has improved. However, the study also notes that there are two new problem areas that carmakers should pay attention to: advanced safety features and advanced technology-related functions—emerging quality issues which may make owners switch brands.

Initial quality is determined by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100), with a lower score reflecting higher quality. This year’s IQS has had the fewest number of problems reported with scores just averaging 60 PP 100 (this is compared to 136 PP 100 for U.S. market vehicles).

The study, measures new-vehicle quality in the first two to nine months of ownership. Vehicle quality is evaluated by owners across 233 problem areas in eight categories: vehicle exterior; driving experience; features/controls/displays (FCD); audio/communication/entertainment/navigation (ACEN); seats; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); vehicle interior; and engine/transmission.

According to J.D. Power, the largest improvement is in the engine/transmission category with a decrease of 6.6 PP100, followed by the vehicle interior category with a decrease of 5.4 PP100. In particular, owners have reported fewer problems for AT/CVT hesitating or shifting at wrong times; difficult to use cup holders; and unpleasant interior odors.

However, more problems have been are reported for safety features and advanced technology-related functions. The most common is Bluetooth pairing or connectivity issues; built-in voice recognition not recognizing or misinterpreting commands; and lane departure warning systems (lane keeping assist) being difficult to understand, use, or with poorly arranged switches or indicators.

Honda ranks highest in overall initial quality, followed by Nissan, Daihatsu, Lexus, and Mazda. German imports all rank at the bottom with Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Volkswagen being the last three (see full ranking below).

Improvement in initial quality differs depending on brand. Among Imports, Mini and Volvo are the most improved with a decrease of 69 PP100 and 56 PP100. Mazda is the most improved domestic brand with a decrease of 45 PP100. This has helped Mazda overtake Suzuki, Toyota, Subaru, and Mitsubishi compared to last year’s ranking.

Interestingly, familiarity breeds contempt in Japan with those who switched car brands reporting a higher number of initial problems. Initial quality among purchasers who bought their new vehicle as a replacement or an addition from the same brand as their previous vehicle is 58 PP100 and averages 67 PP100 among switchers from other brands, a difference of 9 PP100. This suggests that switchers are likely to provide poorer evaluations for initial vehicle quality. This trend is more marked for luxury brands than mass market brands (mainly domestic brands).

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