Weekly Recap: Kia leads Korea's quality surge
Plus: Notes On Kerkorian, Top Gear, And Honda
Kia and Hyundai earned the highest rankings among mainstream brands in the J. D. Power Initial Quality Study released on Wednesday. The study tracks problems owners report during the first 90 days they own their car. Kia reported 86 problems per 100 vehicles, or fewer than one problem per car sold, to take second in the rankings behind luxury sportscar-maker Porsche (80). Kia's score improved by nearly 20 percent compared with the 2014 study.
"The big industry story is Kia," Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power, said in a video statement, noting Kia's infotainment systems were the key reason for its improved performance.
Hyundai was fourth for the second straight year, though its score actually worsened by one, to 95. Even with Hyundai's slight dip, Korean quality increased 11 percent, according to the study, which far outpaced American and European companies' three-percent increases. Japanese brands improved one percent. Hyundai Motor Co. (parent company of the Hyundai and Kia brands) captured four individual vehicle awards, which tied for the most with General Motors, Nissan, and Volkswagen.
"The Korean brands have really taken off," Stephens said. "There's movement in the industry, and the patterns are shifting."
Another luxury brand, Jaguar (93 problems), slotted in between Hyundai and Kia in third place. Infiniti was fifth, followed by BMW. Chevrolet was the highest domestic brand, taking seventh place, followed by Lincoln, Lexus, and Toyota, which were all well above the industry average of 112 problems per 100 vehicles.
OTHER NEWS & NOTES
Kirk Kerkorian dead at 98
Kirk Kerkorian, a billionaire activist investor who wielded enormous influence on the Detroit Three car companies in the 1990s and 2000s, died Monday. He was 98 years old. Kerkorian made headlines in 1995 for trying to take over Chrysler – with the help of former chairman Lee Iacocca – before being fended off by Chrysler management. His takeover attempt ultimately pushed Chrysler to be sold to German giant Daimler. He tried to buy Chrysler again in 2007 when Daimler put Chrysler on the market, but Kerkorian fell short and the automaker was sold to private equity firm Cerberus. In 2006, he bought nearly 10 percent of General Motors' stock and urged the company to join the Renault-Nissan alliance, which GM shot down. In 2008, he bought a huge stake in Ford, but sold it off as the auto industry and economy collapsed. Outside of the auto sector, Kerkorian owned large stakes in MGM Resorts International and film giant MGM over the course of his long career in business.
Top Gear names Chris Evans new host
Finally, Top Gear has a new host: Ferrari fan and BBC 2 radio host Chris Evans. He signed a three-year deal, and production of the show will begin in a few weeks. Evans will "lead an all-new lineup" of hosts, according to a post Tuesday on the Top Gear website, though the rest of the crew was not announced. The show is now holding open auditions for co-hosts. Top Gear previously attempted to lure back James May and Richard Hammond, who co-hosted the show for years with the deposed Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson was sacked in March for punching a producer. Meanwhile, Clarkson did return recently to record a voiceover for the final episode of this season, the British newspaper Telegraph reported. It will air in the United Kingdom June 28.
Honda drops Civic Hybrid, CNG models
Honda is killing off the Civic Hybrid and Civic Natural Gas vehicles at the end of the 2015 model year, American Honda executive vice president John Mendel confirmed Monday. The moves came in response to consumers' changing preferences and a focus on sporty dynamics for the next-generation Civic that launches later this year. The new Civic will get also get a Type R variant in 2017. Additionally, Honda has discontinued the Accord plug-in to concentrate on an updated Accord hybrid that launches in 2016. Meanwhile, Honda plans to launch a fuel cell model in 2016 and a new plug-in model in 2018.
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