Some motoring reputations die hard. Take South Korea’s Kia for example. You can still find people quick with their off-the-cuff opinion that car buyers should stay clear of Kia. Now at one stage, perhaps 20-or-more years ago, most of us would have agreed. Kia and their stable-mate Hyundai were rightly regarded as rough and not-so-ready cars in their early days, offering little more than the opportunity for budget buyers to buy a brand-new car at a used car price. They were cheap in every sense of the word.
Today it’s a very different story. Kia has become a role model for other carmakers when it comes to build quality and reliability. Who says? Well the J.D Power Initial Quality Study for one. It’s an American survey of problems experienced per 100 vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership. With over 76,000 respondents in 2019 the survey is vast and authoritative. For the second year in a row Kia was ranked right near the top, second only to Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury off-shoot, with Hyundai itself third. In fact Kia was the highest ranked mass market brand for the fifth year in succession. And in a worrying sign for the rest of the auto industry, the quality gap between the Hyundai Motor Group’s vehicles and the rest just keeps getting wider.
It’s been a remarkable turnaround in just a few short years. In the early 2000s Kia regularly languished near the bottom of the survey and as recently as 2005 it was still wallowing around in 30th place. How they achieved that remarkable turnaround in such a short time was the subject of a Popular Mechanics article in 2018. In brief it all came down to a combination of money, research and diligence – a lot of diligence.
Kia’s fortunes started turning around in 2006 when former Audi designer Peter Schreyer was poached by the company. Schreyer gave Kias some real styling pizzazz and sales grew as a result. At about the same time the Hyundai Motor Group “made a conscious and deliberate decision to concentrate on quality rather than volume” and sunk over a billion dollars into researching just how to do that.
A major focus at Kia is to catch potential defects early and fix them. One of its American factories has no less than 39 codes to detail paint defects. Its workforce is very well trained and highly skilled with each worker spending at least 40 hours in training, with more than 2/3 of them flown to Korea for specialist instruction.
But Kia doesn’t just leave it at that. Where other carmakers just carry out spot checks, Kia gives each and every car a thorough testing with a diagnostic computer, a high-speed dynamometer test and a lap on a test track to check brakes, steering, suspension, acceleration and more. Then it’s into a leak-test chamber “that looks like an exceptionally ferocious car wash”.
It’s that sort of attention to detail that’s put the South Korean giant at the top of the heap for quality but it’s by no means alone when it comes to constant improvement. In fact, the JD Power survey has shown pretty consistent quality improvement with most carmakers over the last 10 years. That’s remarkable given the increasing complexity of modern vehicles.
Kia’s have become a popular option for corporate fleet finance and leasing too. The more you think about it getting into a brand-new vehicle with its improved quality, safety, comfort and convenience just makes sense, so if it’s time you upgraded to a new vehicle with a money-saving Fleetcare Novated Lease, call us today on 134 333.