COSTA MESA, CA—J.D. Power recently named the top automotive factories in the world as part of its 2020 Initial Quality Study. The annual ranking of new-vehicle performance measures components that fail and features that are difficult to use, hard to understand or don’t work the way owners want.

The study was based on responses from purchasers and lessees of new 2020 model-year vehicles who were surveyed after 90 days of ownership. More than 200 questions were organized into categories such as climate; driving assistance; driving experience; exterior; infotainment; features, controls and displays; infotainment; interior; power train; and seats.

“Infotainment is the most problematic category,” says Dave Sargent, vice president of automotive quality at J.D. Power. “Almost one-fourth of all problems cited by new-vehicle owners relate to infotainment. Top complaints include built-in voice recognition, connectivity, navigation systems and touchscreens.” The parent corporation receiving the most model-level awards is Hyundai Motor Group (seven awards), followed by General Motors (six), BMW AG (three), Ford Motor Co. (three), Nissan Motor Co.(three) and Toyota Motor Corp. (two). Among specific brands, Cadillac and Kia each received four awards.

“Collectively, this is the best-ever performance by the Detroit automakers—when compared with the import brands—in the history of the study,” notes Sargent. However, Japanese automakers did not fare as well. “Once regarded as the gold standard in quality, most Japanese brands have not improved as fast as competitors have and they continue to trail most Korean and domestic brands,” claims Sargent. “Mitsubishi, Lexus and Nissan are the only Japanese brands to rank above industry average.

“W. Edwards Deming said, ‘Quality is to fulfill the requirements of customers and satisfy them,’ and Japanese automakers excelled at this for quite some time,” Sargent points out. “But, some other automakers have surpassed them in recent years by understanding better what quality means for today’s owners.”

The J.D. Power study also honors automotive assembly plants. “Plant quality awards are based solely on defects and malfunctions and exclude design-related problems,” says Sargent. This year, GM’s Yantai Dongyue 2 (China) plant, which produces the Buick Envision sport utility vehicle, received the Platinum Plant Quality Award for producing vehicles with the fewest defects or malfunctions. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ (FCA) Toluca (Mexico) plant, which produces the Dodge Journey and Jeep Compass, and Toyota Motor Corp.’s TMMT (Turkey) plant, which produces the Toyota C-HR, received the Gold Plant Quality Award for the Americas and Europe/Africa regions, respectively.

“The fact that the top plants in each region are outside of the traditional areas of the U.S., Canada, Germany, Japan and Korea is a sign of just how global the auto industry has become,” notes Sargent. “China and Turkey have been represented in the study for less than 10 years, so to say this achievement is impressive is an understatement.”

Other North American assembly plants cited by J.D. Power include Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant (Wayne, MI) that produces the Ranger pickup truck. It received the Silver Plant Quality award. The facility was also the recipient of ASSEMBLY’s 2012 Assembly Plant of the Year award. The Bronze Plant Quality was shared by FCA’s Belvidere, IL, facility that makes the Jeep Cherokee, and Toyota’s South Plant (Cambridge, ON) factory that makes the Lexus RX.