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Motor Mouth: The Koreans are coming! The Koreans are coming!

Driving.ca logo Driving.ca 2018-06-20 David Booth

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

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Listen to the experts and the Koreans don’t have a hope in H-E-double-hockey-sticks in launching a luxury automotive brand in North America. Oh, they’ll concede, they make passable automobiles but they have no pedigree, they have no style and most importantly, they have no badge. Trendoids that we North Americans have become, a Genesis — Hyundai’s upstart upscale marque that’s just now getting a foothold here in Canada — can never have the loyalty, the desire, the sheer satisfaction that owning a premium brand like BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Audi engenders.

Research

Guess again, brand slaves! J.D.Power’s latest New-Vehicle Initial Quality Survey has just been released and guess who’s at the head of the list? Yup, you guessed it: Genesis.

To add insult to injury, Korean automakers now occupy all three top spots with Kia (72 problems per 100 cars, just four behind Genesis’ 68PP100) and Hyundai third with 74 PP100. Nor is this an anomaly: This is the fourth time Kia has emerged as the “highest-ranking mass-market brand” and, in fact, was the top overall brand in both 2016 an 2017. For those, again, brand sales not paying attention, the Koreans have been kicking butt and taking names for some time now.

Nor was this a nail-biting, squeak-one-out-in-overtime finish. Lexus, perennial top two finisher, ended up way back in eighth with no less than 16 more problems per 100 vehicles than the upstart Korean luxury brand. Porsche, another perennial front-runner, managed to salvage some modicum of dignity, finishing fourth but still some 11 points behind Genesis. Audi finished some 37 problems back, Volvo 54 and Land Rover 92.

Not that it’s all bad news for traditional brands. Porsche’s 911 posted the best score — only 48 problem per 100 cars — of any individual model while Lincoln’s Continental topped the mid-sized premium car segment. But even here Genesis shone, the G80 finishing right behind the Lincoln and ahead of Lexus’ GS. In the large luxury premium car set, things were even more astonishing, Genesis’ G90 finishing ahead of BMW’s 7 Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Yes, in case you’re still not getting the point; Genesis owners were more satisfied with their G90 than Mercedes loyalists were with their S-Class. Am I really belabouring the point in reminding you that the S-Class has ruled the luxury sedan roost since God made little green apples?

There’s actually a lot of good news for the entire industry in this year’s study. Twenty one of the 31 brands in the study improved over last year and the industry average of 93 PP100 is an improvement of four over 2017. There were notable improvements throughout the industry in paint imperfection, wind noise and even infotainment systems, J.D. Power attributing this to improvements in voice-recognition systems. Furthermore, for those beating up on domestic manufacturers, all three improved more than the industry average, with Chrysler leading the pack with a 7 PP100 advancement and Ford winning more specific model categories — Ford Expedition, Ford Mustang, Ford Super Duty, Lincoln Continental, and Lincoln MKC — than any other manufacturer. Mazda, meanwhile, was the most improved brand, owners reporting an improvement of a whopping 25 PP100 over 2017.

Indeed, the only bad news from the study is that Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) — think frontal collision warning systems and lane departure warnings — are giving owners fits: J.D. Power says the absolute levels is still low (3.5 PP100) but the reports of issues have been increasing by about 20 per cent per year for the last three years.

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Nonetheless, the day must belong to the Koreans and Genesis in particular. One thing to remember is that the IQS study is not a reliability study but based solely on the customers’ perception of problems in their new car. In other words, are they satisfied with the quality of the seats, the feel of the transmission and the sound of the audio system. In other words, it’s wide open to biases based on loyalty to brand. The 911 is no doubt a good car, but does anyone out there really believe that Porsche aficiandoes were anywhere near as critical of their car’s faults as a newcomer to Genesis was with their G80 or 90? This potential partisanship makes the G90’s triumph over Mercedes’ S-Class and the BMW 7 Series all the more improbable. Mercedes owners are an especially loyal breed; for them to rank their cars behind what G90 owners thought of their ride is perhaps the most remarkable statistic in this study.

What makes this perhaps even more astounding is that the IQS does not take into account Genesis’ “At Home” program. For one thing, Genesis Canada’s personalized service is not available in America where the survey is conducted and, for another, because IQS is only about the car and not about the overall ownership experience. Part of what Patrick Danielson, Genesis Canada’s manager of product strategy and public relations, calls his company’s “omni-channel” sales experience is that potential Genesis customers can “interact with us online, at-home, or in one of our growing network of boutique showrooms across Canada.” Indeed, the entirety of the purchase process — “from vehicle configuration through to trade-in appraisal, credit application and more” — can be done on our website. Furthermore, all Genesis pricing is “all-inclusive” with no hidden fees, no freight and PDI costs and five years of at-home service — they’ll come and pick up your car when it needs maintenance — included in one fixed price.

So brand slaves, do you really want to go on record saying Genesis will never catch on?

On a final note, my recent test of Genesis G70 found an entry-level luxury sedan not just equal, but superior to, the best from BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. And, for naysayers who still claim that won’t bring customers to Genesis, know that the G70 evaluation was one of Driving.ca’s best read, if not THE best read, road test of the last year. The Koreans aren’t just coming; they’ve arrived!

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