GM, Hyundai models win most JD Power quality awards

DETROIT, June 18 Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:00pm EDT

DETROIT, June 18 (Reuters) - General Motors Co on Wednesday received more awards for initial quality from J.D. Power than any other automaker in the U.S. market, as its chief executive officer was grilled by a U.S. congressional committee about safety issues.

It was the second year in a row that GM had the most models named with the best initial quality in the annual J.D. Power study.

South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co took five awards and was the best overall mass-market brand in the survey, jumping to fourth place from 10th a year ago.

The top three brand's in the study that asks consumers to report problems in the first 90 days of new-vehicle ownership, were Volkswagen's luxury brand Porsche (VOWG_p.DE>, Tata Motor's Jaguar and Toyota Motor Corp's Lexus luxury brand.

Among GM models to win were Malibu for best midsize sedan, GMC Terrain for compact SUV, and Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon for large SUV.

Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power, said it was a turnabout from years when U.S. automakers lagged far behind Toyota and Honda Motor Co as the Japanese automakers dominated the study, now in its 28th year. Toyota and Honda combined each received one top award for its models.

Overall, Honda and Toyota are still highly regarded by new-vehicle owners. The study found the Toyota brand as fifth among 32 brands, and Honda eighth.

GM's mass-market Chevrolet brand was sixth.

Meanwhile GM CEO Mary Barra will appear before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee to face intense questioning about whether the automaker has a grip on the safety crisis that has enveloped it this year.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker has come under fire from the Justice Department, lawmakers and other authorities probing why it waited more than a decade to recall 2.6 million cars with an ignition-switch flaw that has been tied to at least 13 deaths.

NEVER BEEN BETTER

Sargent said the overall quality of cars sold in the United States has never been better. Lower-priced cars from manufacturers like Hyundai are right up there in terms of initial quality with expensive models from Porsche and Jaguar, said Sargent.

Some brands fell in the rankings, in large part because of newly launched models that have yet to work out bugs in new technology, such as voice recognition, Bluetooth pairing and auto systems, he said.

Ford Motor Co, which in recent years fell in the rankings because of problems with information-entertainment systems, is no longer below the industry average in the J.D. Power study.

"Ford worked through those problems," said Sargent, and as an early adopter in bringing new technology into vehicles, helped the quality of information-entertainment systems among all automakers.

In general, Sargent said, consumers have more difficulty overcoming design problems than defects. A defect can be fixed at a local dealership, while design problems are systemic and often are not fixed until a new model year or new generation for that particular model.

Finishing at the bottom of the study was Fiat Chrysler Automobile's Fiat brand, and next-to-last was Jeep, a key brand for Fiat-Chrysler.

Vehicles in the study were all from the 2014 model year. (Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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