There was a time when Korean vehicles were considered cheap (both in price and quality) alternatives to what the Japanese and North American companies had to offer, and people were willing to settle for inferior workmanship in order to save a couple bucks – “you get what you pay for” was a common refrain by critics and buyers alike.
However, the latest Vehicle Satisfaction awards from AutoPacific indicate how radically the industry has changed, with Hyundai Group vehicles (Hyundai and Kia brands) tying General Motors for the most category wins with five, and the Kia K900 sedan taking home the President’s trophy for an all-time high vehicle satisfaction score.
The annual AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSAs) identify the most satisfying vehicles in the market and have become an industry benchmark for measuring how satisfied owners are with their new vehicles. The latest edition polled 66,000 owners of 2015 model year cars and light trucks.
“For the 2015 model year, there are 274 models and 33 brands from which to choose,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “It can be daunting for consumers to sort through all of those options and try to predict which one will work best for them. AutoPacific VSAs help to give them a strong starting point.”
Hyundai Group vehicles took five of the 23 vehicle categories, with the Sonata capturing mid-sized car, and Kia’s Sportage taking compact crossover, Cadenza taking large car, Soul tying for compact car honours (with Volkswagen’s Jetta and Beetle) and the K900 capturing the luxury car category, and taking home the President’s Award as the most satisfying vehicle overall (with an all-time high satisfaction score).
The award is only given to a vehicle who surpasses the previous winner’s score (previously held by the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which last year took it from the 2010 Hyundai Sonata) and would have been won by this year’s Ford F-150, had the K900 not surpassed it.
The overall improvement by Hyundai and Kia is not surprising, says Peterson, adding that the Korean companies have continually improved in owner satisfaction when it comes to key areas such as reliability, quality, safety, styling and comfort, while topping it off with one of the best warranties in the business.
General Motors matched the Hyundai Group’s output with wins by the Corvette (sports car), Buick Enclave (luxury crossover), Chevrolet Tahoe (large SUV), and GMC’s Canyon (compact pickup) and Acadia (large crossover). GMC also took home the most satisfying popular brand award.
Tesla took premium brand satisfaction honours in a year that saw the average VSA score increase by 25 points from 2014. The brands with the greatest year over year score improvements were Jaguar (up 11 positions), Volkswagen (improving 10 positions) and Ford (up nine places).
Nissan placed third in the winners’ sweepstakes, taking three class honours – Murano (premium mid-sized crossover) and Quest (minivan), and the Infiniti QX80 (luxury SUV). A host of others scored double wins: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles won in mid-sized SUV (Jeep Grand Cherokee) and sporty car (Dodge Challenger); Ford took home the full-sized pickup classes (light duty with the F-150 and heavy duty with the F-Series Super Duty); Honda captured midsized crossover (Honda CR-V) and economy car (Honda Fit) honours; and Toyota’s Lexus division took top spots in luxury mid-sized (ES) and premium compact classes (CT 200h).
Volvo registered and individual win (the S60 won as aspirational luxury car), as did BMW and Mercedes-Benz by tying in the premium luxury crossover class (with the X5 and ML, respectively).
The awards are judged on 50 separate attributes in areas such as interior comfort, styling, fuel economy and performance, among others.
“In many cases, an extremely satisfying vehicle is not the car or truck that has the best absolute build quality or the best safety rating,” concludes Peterson. “VSAs look at the big picture, which includes owners’ experiences with their vehicle’s quality and safety, but also goes deeper into the heart of the ownership experience.”