At what point do you stop being considered an underdog and receive recognition as a world leader in your field? That’s a question for South African motorists to chew on following the remarkable performance of Hyundai in the enormously influential JD Power South African Initial Quality Study (IQS) released last month.
American company JD Power and Associates has carried out IQS and similar studies in numerous countries for over two decades, and the South African study — a first for this country — was based upon responses from more than 6Â 700 people who purchased new vehicles between December 2003 and April 2004. Hyundai took 6th place overall against formidable opposition, with 233 problems logged per hundred cars sold (pp 100), and the five brands that achieved better ratings are all top-level manufacturers. The industry standard was 287 pp 100.
But Hyundai’s performance in the South African JD Power study was far from a flash in the pan. The Korean manufacturer has earned worldwide accolades over the past few years, thanks to the intense effort that’s gone into improving the quality of their products. Hyundai has become enormously popular in the United Kingdom, and in a survey of repair costs carried out in that country in 2003 by Warranty Direct, the Korean company was ranked sixth, with an average repair bill of Â£246,38 (R2744,67) for the year — well below the industry average of Â£379.31 (R4225,51) Warranty Direct also rated Hyundai as one of the seven best manufacturers in the reliability stakes.
Three months ago, the results of the annual Which? car reliability survey in the United Kingdom rated Korean cars, led by Hyundai, as second only to a handful of Japanese manufacturers in terms of reliability, way ahead of their German and American competitors. The survey went out to 80Â 000 randomly selected Which? readers, and the responses provided track records of 34Â 277 cars up to eight years old. Owners rated the products of 35 manufacturers as “Excellent”, “Good”, “Average” or “Poor”. Hyundai kept its place in the “Excellent” rank for the second consecutive year, and the report pointed out that not a single Hyundai Getz included in the sample suffered a breakdown. Only six brands were rated as “Excellent”, with four receiving “Good” ratings. Twelve were only “Average” while 13 were “Poor”.
The findings by Which? in the UK were mirrored across the Atlantic, when the results of the 2004 JD Power USA IQS were released in April this year.
The report said that Korean cars, strongly driven by Hyundai’s performance, outpaced European and American products for the first time ever after aggressively tackling quality problems over a six year period. In 1998, Korean-branded products trailed the leading European manufacturers by 116 Ppp 100, with a rating of 272 pp 100. The Koreans, with 117 pp 100, now lead the Europeans with five fewer problems per 100 cars sold, and the Americans with six.
“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 domestics and other imports 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.” The Toyota range of products was the top scorer in the American 2004 IQS survey, thanks to the strong performance of the Lexus brand, with Hyundai and Honda tying for second place. Between 1998 and 2004 Hyundai improved by 62% — more than any other brand, and nearly twice the industry average of 32%. “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 the long haul.”
In Australia too Hyundai has received recognition for bringing motorists excellently engineered cars at budget prices. The National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) found Hyundai to be the best performing brand in its greatly expanded annual Vehicle Operating Cost Survey for 2004, scoring most economical car in three of the 11 categories surveyed. The survey assessed 489 model variants when comparing running costs, and the Getz 1.3, Sonata 2.4 sedan and Tiburon V6 sports coupe all won their classes. Thirteen volume-selling car makers were involved in the survey, with no other brand topping three classes. For the second consecutive year the Hyundai Getz XL 1.3 manual was found to be the most economical car overall on the road, while the Getz 1.5 three door manual took second place. The Hyundai Getz XL automatic was the fifth most economic car in the survey, followed by the Hyundai Accent 1.6 in sixth place. The NRMA survey included all the obvious car operating costs like fuel, maintenance, tyres, licensing, insurance and repairs, plus the more hidden cost of interest lost on investment and the biggest cost of all — depreciation.