Survey: Korean cars more reliable

Comprehensive survey also shows Japanese brands are better than average, luxury brands worst

UNITED KINGDOM — Think luxury spells quality? You might want to think again. The latest Vehicle Dependability Study conducted in the UK by JD Power and Associates ranks Korean brands highly and finds that the complexity that comes with premium brands can impact reliability.

The influential survey collected data from the owners of 13,536 cars registered between February 2015 and February 2017, and ranked car brands on a problems-per-100 scale.

Hyundai was ranked highest, with just 78 problems per 100 cars. Suzuki came second with 87, and Kia took third place with 94 faults per 100 cars.

The top 13 brands in the UK were all mass-market nameplates, with Mercedes-Benz coming 14th. It was the only luxury nameplate ranked above average.

Note that neither Lexus nor Porsche were not ranked. The two luxury brands ranked first and second in the 2018 VDS study for the USA, it’s the seventh consecutive year Lexus has lead.

BMW owners found the most faults to complain about and put the brand last.

But although comprehensive, the survey and its results require some interpretation. It studies 177 problem symptoms 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 and transmission — so a blown cabin light bulb would be considered as bad as, say, a transmission failure, even though the two problems differ in the amount of resulting headache.

Although brands are ranked as a whole, there are standout performers in vehicle segments, too.

The Skoda Octavia (above) was ranked the best compact car, for example. That correlates highly with Skoda’s overall ranking (fourth), but there were exceptions — Volkswagen’s Tiguan (below) was the best compact Sport Utility Vehicle, for example, even though VW itself was ranked only slightly above average.

It’s worth noting also that the results take into account cars sold in the UK, many of which aren’t available here. The Hyundai i10 will have dragged its maker up the rankings, for instance, but it’s not a relevant car to the Singapore market.

Differences in spec and equipment will have had an impact on relevance to here, too — a greater proportion of cars in the UK would be diesel powered than in Singapore, for example.

Nevertheless, the survey does provide some idea of which carmakers are making products that tend to give their owners satisfaction (or headaches).

If nothing else, it does show very clearly that the price you pay for a car has little relation to how dependable it’s likely to be.

about the author

Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.