DETROIT • Just as South Korea pulled off a victory over Germany in the World Cup, the nation's carmakers have also scored a victory over a top German rival.
The Genesis, Kia and Hyundai brands drove past Porsche to take the top three spots in J.D. Power's closely watched annual study of new-car quality.
Genesis, Hyundai's luxury line, ranked No. 1, with 68 problems reported per 100 vehicles, with Kia and Hyundai trailing closely behind.
The 2018 Initial Quality Study is based on consumer surveys after 90 days of ownership.
"It starts from the top at Hyundai," said Mr Dave Sargent, vice-president of global vehicle research for J.D. Power.
"When they first conceive a vehicle, they are voracious consumers of customer input."
Reliability has improved for most car models in the United States market. The average number of problems per 100 vehicles fell by four, compared with last year, to 93.
Many of the reported defects are design issues, especially with electronics. When consumers have a hard time getting the audio system to do what they want, it cannot be fixed with a trip to the dealer the way an oil leak can be.
"Mechanical problems are not as prevalent as they used to be," said Mr Sargent.
"Infotainment is the highest problem area in a vehicle. Those design issues drive customers more crazy than breakdowns."
The South Korean brands and Porsche rank highest in part because they have kept their electronics and infotainment systems simple and avoided the complexity that leads to software problems or confusion, Mr Sargent said.
Kia Motors, which is 34 per cent owned by Hyundai, had its namesake brand place second, with 72 problems per 100 vehicles.
Hyundai moved up from sixth place last year to third with a score of 74, five fewer problems than Porsche.
On the other side of the study's spectrum is Volvo.
The Swedish brand, owned by China's Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, finished 29th out of 31 brands in the study, with complex infotainment systems being the primary culprit for issues consumers experienced, Mr Sargent said.
Tata Motors' Jaguar and Land Rover had similar issues and ranked in the bottom two spots.
Germany's BMW and Mercedes-Benz finished slightly better than the industry average, with scores of 87 and 92 respectively.
Toyota Motor and Honda Motor's namesake lines have fallen back because of complaints about electronics. Once stalwarts that were routinely headed towards the top segment of the rankings, their cars still are not known for breakdowns.
But both have had issues with new technologies, Mr Sargent said.
Toyota finished 17th and Honda 23rd.
The two Japanese brands have remained relatively stable in terms of the number of problems that their customers report, but other companies have moved ahead, including American car nameplates.
The Ford brand finished fifth, with a score of 81 problems per 100 cars, and Chevrolet was sixth, with 82.
The trouble for Detroit, Mr Sargent said, is that Ford Motor, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles do not get credit for their progress.
"If you ask the average person on the street, they will probably tell you that the Japanese have better quality," he noted.