Mercedes Slip, Kia Gain Shows Quality Not Just for the Rich

(Bloomberg) -- Finally some good news for the middle class: Mass-market auto brands are almost as good as luxury cars when it comes to lasting quality.

J.D. Power’s annual vehicle dependability study, which measures problems per 100 vehicles for three-year-old cars, found the gap between premium and mass-market brands has narrowed significantly. Mainstream brands now have 143 problems per 100 cars, just seven more than premium models.

“High quality is not the preserve of luxury brands,” Dave Sargent, vice president for global automotive at J.D. Power, said in a phone interview. “Manufacturers are making their mass-market cars more dependable and reliable.”

Mercedes Slip, Kia Gain Shows Quality Not Just for the Rich

The narrowing gap between luxury and non-luxury brands comes as premium carmakers stuff their models with more and more technology -- add-ons customers love until they act up. In-car tech, like entertainment, Bluetooth and navigation systems, cause the most problems, the study found.

“Luxury cars tend to have a lot of features,” Sargent said, adding that when it comes to reliability, “less stuff is better.”

While Toyota Motor Corp.’s luxury Lexus line and Porsche were the top two brands this year with 99 and 100 problems, respectively, two non-premium brands also made the top five: General Motors Co.’s Buick and Kia Motors Corp.’s namesake brand.

Buick had 116 problems per 100 cars this year, 10 fewer than last year, while Kia had 122, a decline of 26 problems. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s Fiat was the most improved brand in the study, with owners reporting 106 fewer problems than a year earlier.

Mercedes Slip, Kia Gain Shows Quality Not Just for the Rich

Some notable luxury brands slipped in the rankings this year. Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz -- fifth last year with 131 problems -- fell below the industry average this year with 147 issues. Rival BMW stayed in the top 10, but dropped behind the Chevrolet brand. Land Rover finished second to last with 204 problems per 100 vehicles, beating only the Chrysler brand.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.