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Quality of small vehicles leads industry improvement

SHANGHAI – Significant quality improvements in the small car and minivan segments lead the overall improvement in initial quality, according to the J.D. Power 2016 China Initial Quality StudySM (IQS) released here on September 29.

The study measures new-vehicle quality by examining problems experienced by owners within the first two to six months of ownership in two categories: design-related problems and defects/ malfunctions. Specific diagnostic questions are included in eight problem categories: interior; exterior; engine/transmission; driving experience; features/controls/displays; seats; audio/communication/entertainment/navigation; and heating/ventilation/ air conditioning. The overall initial quality score is determined by problems reported per 100 (PP100) vehicles, with a lower number of problems indicating higher quality.

The industry’s initial quality improves to 102 PP100 from 105 PP100 in 2015. The improvement is largely attributed to progress made in the quality of small vehicles. Initial quality in the small car segment is 99 PP100, an improvement of 12 PP100. The minivan segment improves to 114 PP100, a shift of 10 PP100.

“Small vehicles are taking the lead in overall quality improvement,” said Jeff Cai, general manager, auto product and quality at J.D. Power China. “The market is evolving into a more mature one. In the past, small vehicles, typically with lower prices, had low quality. But this year, the small and other low-price cars have improved significantly. With outstanding quality and continuous improvements, automakers will be better positioned to gain customers’ trust and loyalty in the long run.”

Other key findings of the study include:

The domestic Chinese brands are closing the gap with international brands in 2016, narrowing the difference to14 PP100, compared with a difference of 22 PP100 in 2015. The largest gap in quality between domestic and international brands is in the engine/transmission category (6 PP100).

For a second consecutive year, the most frequently reported problem is unpleasant interior smell/odor, increasing to 16.0 PP100 this year from 14.2 PP100 in 2015. Excessive road noise; excessive fuel consumption; excessive wind noise; and engine loses power when A/C is on round out the top five most reported problems.

Air conditioning-related problems account for four of the 10 most improved problems in 2016. Conversely, four noise-related problems are among the 10 problems that have increased the most year over year.

An increasing proportion of new-vehicle owners have a factory-installed navigation system in their car (64 percent in 2016 vs. 51 percent in 2015). Although overall navigation systems problems have declined from 2015 (2.68 PP100 vs. 2.70 PP100, respectively), the most common problem – inaccurate navigation system – has increased to 2.0 PP100 from 1.8 PP100.

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