DETROIT (Reuters) - South Korean auto brands Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> and Kia Motors Corp <000270.KS> took top marks in a U.S. survey of new vehicle quality, besting Japanese rivals whose scores fell below the industry average for first time in 29 years.
Hyundai and its Kia affiliate led the industry by the widest margin ever, according to the J.D. Power initial vehicle quality study released on Wednesday. Kia led all non-premium brands in initial quality for the first time in the study's history.
The industry saw its performance improve 3 percent to a rate of 112 problems per 100 vehicles from model year 2015, with the Korean brands at 90, Europeans at 113, and the Japanese and Americans each at 114, J.D. Power said.
"This is a clear shift in the quality landscape," J.D. Power vice president Renee Stephens said in a statement. "For so long, Japanese brands have been viewed by many as the gold standard in vehicle quality. While the Japanese automakers continue to make improvements, we're seeing other brands, most notably Korean makes, really accelerating the rate of improvement."
J.D. Power's study of long-term vehicle dependability, which is more heavily tracked by the industry as the difference in initial quality issues among automakers has shrunk, was released in February.
In that survey, which aims to show how well vehicles hold up over a three-year period, Toyota Motor Corp's <7203.T> Lexus luxury brand scored the highest for the fourth straight year.
The top three brands in the initial quality study that asks consumers to report problems in the first 90 days of new-vehicle ownership, were Volkswagen Group's (VOWG_p.DE) luxury brand Porsche, Kia and Tata Motor Ltd's (TAMO.NS) Jaguar.
While the Japanese brands, which have long enjoyed a reputation for high vehicle quality, reduced their issues slightly, their collective improvement did not keep pace with the industry, J.D. Power said. Only four of the 10 Japanese brands in the study posted an improvement.
Entertainment and troublesome electronics remain the most problem prone area for the third straight year, with voice recognition and Bluetooth pairing topping the problem list, J.D. Power said.
Porsche's top score was 80 problems per 100 vehicles, followed by Kia (86), Jaguar (93), Hyundai (95) and Nissan Motor Co's <7201.T> Infiniti luxury brand (97), J.D. Power said. Finishing at the bottom was Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV's (FCHA.MI) Fiat brand with 161 problems per 100 vehicles.
Four auto groups - General Motors Co (GM.N), Hyundai-Kia, Nissan and the Volkswagen - each had four vehicles recognized as having the best initial quality in their market segments.
(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Alan Crosby)