Six General Motors vehicles ranked at the top of their segments in the latest J.D. Power initial quality automobile survey, more than any other brand.
Hyundai was another big winner with five segment leaders. The South Korean automaker also ranked fourth in an overall ranking of brands, behind Porsche, Jaguar and Lexus.
J.D. Power’s 28th annual Initial Quality Study surveyed more than 86,000 people between February and May of this year about their first 90 days with a new vehicle. Each brand received an overall ranking, and the survey also lists the top three models for each of 23 different segments.
Hyundai moved from 10th overall in 2013 to fourth in 2014, beating out Chevrolet, Honda and even Toyota for best nonluxury brand. This was due to thoughtful redesigns of its vehicles and an attention to quality, according to Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power.
GM had the most segment leaders for the second year in a row. This was largely on the strength of its trucks, crossovers and full-size SUVs, the survey found.
Across the industry, many complaints centered on technology, with drivers finding Bluetooth, audio and voice-recognition systems frustrating and complicated.
"Automakers are trying to give consumers the new features and technology they want without introducing additional quality problems into their vehicles," said David Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power. "However, almost all automakers are struggling to do this flawlessly."
Brands like GMC, Infiniti and Acura each launched new vehicles last year with infotainment systems that buyers then found cumbersome. This meant the three brands’ overall rankings fell in the 2014 survey more than any other nameplate.
Fiat ranked dead last of all 32 brands by a wide margin, largely due to complaints about its new 500L hatchback. Buyers found little to like about the 500L, offering criticism "across all categories," said Stephens.
Fiat owners reported 206 problems per 100 vehicles, nearly double the industry average of 116. Porsche owners, by comparison, reported just 74 problems per 100 vehicles.
Meanwhile, Jeep ranked second to last as a brand in the survey, with 146 problems per 100 vehicles. This was largely due to complaints about the nine-speed transmission in its all-new Cherokee crossover.
One of the most improved makes was Nissan, Stephens said. "They’re coming off a year of a number of big launches and now they’re getting the benefit of bouncing back," Stephens said. "I would expect them to continue to improve."
Ram was also high on the most-improved list, thanks largely to a well-received redesign of its 1500 full-size truck.