JD Power and Associates released its Initial Quality Survey on Thursday, and though there are no surprises about the highest ranked manufacturer, the traditional straggler staged a spectacular surge to the top.

JD Power and Associates released its Initial Quality Survey on Thursday, and though there are no surprises about the highest ranked manufacturer, the traditional straggler staged a spectacular surge to the top.

The Initial Quality Survey (IQS) measures a broad range of quality problems, heavily weighted toward defects and malfunctions, quality of workmanship, drivability, human ease of use and safety-related problems.

For the first time, Korean-branded vehicles, strongly driven by Hyundai’s success, have managed to outrun both European and US manufacturers in the quality stakes.

Toyota continued to be the highest-ranking corporation in IQS, with Honda and Hyundai tied in second place, followed by BMW .

General Motors, DaimlerChrysler and Ford Motor Company continued to show improvement as well, though all three ranked below the industry average.

Lexus set a new IQS record with its Lexus SC 430 scoring just 44 problems per 100 vehicles and despite a 14 per cent decline in initial quality, remained the top-ranked badge.

Manufacturers of Korean-branded vehicles have aggressively cut initial quality problems by 57 per cent in the past six years. This translates to a drop of 272 problems per 100 vehicles in 1998 to just 117 per 100 vehicles in 2004.

This dramatic improvement is a stark contrast to the state of initial quality among the Korean-branded vehicles in 1998, when they trailed the European brands by an enormous 116 problems per 100 vehicles. The Koreans now lead the Europeans and Americans by 5- and 6 problems per 100, and trail the Japanese by just 6.

"A decade ago, as Korean manufacturers struggled with a universally poor reputation for vehicle quality, no one would have predicted they could not only keep pace, but actually pass other products in terms of initial quality," said Joe Ivers, partner and executive director of quality/customer satisfaction at JD Power and Associates. "This demonstrates how vastly more competitive the market has become—which is good news for consumers, who will ultimately benefit."

Widespread improvements have been implemented in the automotive industry, with initial quality problems dropping 11 per cent from 2003. According to the survey, the industry average is now at it’s lowest since the study was designed in 1998.

"When we started tracking initial quality more than a dozen years ago, the industry said this level of quality wasn’t possible and that it would cost too much," said Ivers. "Yet, automakers could not ignore the warranty savings due to quality, as well as the impact quality has on consumer buying decisions. Even at this historically low level of initial quality problems, the ongoing quality improvements of new vehicles will continue to have a significant impact on the industry."

Hyundai made the most considerable advancement jumping 16 rank positions from 2003 - an improvement of 29 per cent year-on-year - to seventh position.

"The fact that Hyundai is now outperforming even perennial quality leaders like Toyota—and in a relatively short amount of time—is nothing short of remarkable considering the vast quality gap it faced just a few years ago," said Ivers. "This kind of improvement simply cannot be achieved without a serious commitment to quality over a long period.”

Original article from Car