Every actor wants to win an Oscar, every scientist desires a Nobel Prize, and every journalist covets a Pulitzer Prize. And if you’re a car company, the one award you want more than others is likely to be the JD Power and Associates Initial Quality Study (IQS).
The annual award is something savvy car buyers should pay attention to, too, because it helps them to choose cars that are well-made.
Simply put, the JD Power IQS is a survey based on user experiences with 33 car brands in the USA. It counts how many quality problems they experience in their first 90 days of ownership, so the results can be useful.
In 2017’s IQS, for example, Kia topped the rankings for the second year in a row; this tells you that Kia drivers in the real world experienced the fewest quality problems with their cars.
Designs on an award
Car awards come in many forms, and even the JD Power IQS is broken down into categories for various classes of car.
Some prizes are subjectively bestowed, usually by a panel of qualified judges, but that doesn’t mean they are any less covetable.
The Red Dot Awards for design attain prestige from the fact that they are decided by 39 expert independent designers, design professors and trade journalists from around the world, for example. The Kia Niro’s win this year was given by true experts who judged it on criteria such as degree of innovation, formal quality, functionality and ecological compatibility
Intensity of competition is another way to assess the significance of an award. For the Kia Niro to win an iF Design Award this year, it came up against 5,574 other products submitted by 59 companies.
“These latest iF Awards are recognition for our excellent global design team,” says Peter Schreyer, President and Chief Designer of Kia Motors Corporation.
It’s worth pointing out that when a company becomes renowned for its design, the awards tend to follow reliably. This year alone Kia won three iF Awards and three Red Dot Awards.
The numbers are in
While an award is one way for a car company to gain recognition for a certain quality such as beautiful design, there are other, more objective ways that a car company can gain kudos.
The Kia Niro has a Guinness World Record® title for the lowest fuel consumption driving across the USA from coast to coast in the hybrid car category, for example. It covered 5,979km from California to New York, averaging 3.07L/100km along the way.
To win an award like this, strict rules are followed. The Kia Niro used in the attempt was a standard car that anyone could buy, and judges were present to witness the drive to make sure it was actually conducted without cheating.
It doesn’t always take an award or World Record to tell you that a car has extremely low fuel consumption, of course. The Kia Niro already achieves a $30,000 tax rebate here under the ongoing CEVS incentive system for fuel-efficient cars, thanks to a fuel economy average of 3.8L/100km and a CO2 emissions rating of 88g/km.
The CEVS rebate means that drivers will save money by buying a Niro before even driving it, but it’s nice to have the Guinness Book people provide a real-world validation of the fact that its efficiency can save its owner money for years and years.
How to benefit from an award
While it’s nice to drive a car recognised by others for its design or that’s had its fuel efficiency maximised by a record-breaking crew, what’s more important is how a car stands up to the steady grind of day-to-day use.
That’s where the JD Power IQS comes in. Its objective methodology has produced remarkably consistent rankings. The Kia brand may have topped the latest rankings, but that is certainly no fluke because many Kia models were ranked at the top of their class: the Kia Cadenza; Kia Cerato K3; Kia Niro; Kia Sorento and Kia Soul were all reported by owners to have the fewest quality problems.
This might be more important than ever, now that cars are becoming increasingly sophisticated and more feature-packed than ever.
The Kia Niro, for example, has an advanced petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, but it also comes with features such as a wireless smartphone charger, seven airbags, and even ventilated front seats to take the sweatiness out of a hot day.
Surveys like the JD Power IQS help consumers to make better choices, and the good news is that increasing sophistication doesn’t seem to come with headaches. “Today’s vehicles have more things that could go wrong but fewer things that actually do go wrong,” says Dave Sargent, vice president, global automotive at JD Power and Associates.
Ultimately, awards put car companies under scrutiny in a way that highlights the industry’s best. To borrow a line from the Oscars ceremony: And the winner is… you.