When you picture a Kia Motors vehicle, what do you think of? Do you envision quality, style, safety, and reliability? If you answered yes to any of those, you probably wouldn’t have about 20 years ago. When Kia first made its way to North America, it had a bad reputation. Fortunately, through a series of overhauls, reinventions, and some unfortunate events, Kia has come out on the other side stronger than ever. In fact, today Kia is making headlines for its overall quality and reliability.
If you have a passion for cars, read on to learn more about how Kia made its comeback in the automotive industry.
Kia’s Poor Quality, Which Left Pros with Careers in the Auto Industry Unimpressed
Kia’s brand had a rocky start when it made its first appearance in North America. As any long-time auto body repair technician may remember, Korean-made cars didn’t have the best reputation, and Kia didn’t offer anything to improve upon that perception. In fact, the company’s vehicles had a laundry-list of recalls. The 1999 Sportage was recalled a total of six times for serious safety issues like problems with the seatbelts and the brakes—none of which contributed to improving Kia’s reputation as a new entrant in the North American market. Car critics described the brand as looking cheap and declared there was no incentive for any car buyers to purchase a Kia vehicle.
Pros with Careers in the Auto Industry Saw an Improvement When Hyundai Bought Kia
When the Asian financial crisis rocked Asian companies across many industries, Kia was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1997. At the time, this event probably seemed catastrophic to the company, but it was actually a pivotal moment that changed everything for the better. In 1998, Hyundai Motor Company bought part of Kia and changed the company’s trajectory forever.
Hyundai’s executives knew that without drastic measures and a major brand overhaul, Kia would never regain the trust of American car buyers. In an effort to improve its safety reputation, Kia implemented a three-part warranty deal and reinforced it with drastic improvements to quality control practices. Chung Mong-Koo, a formed Hyundai employee, came on as the chairman and CEO of Kia. Mong-Koo made it his personal mission to hold Kia manufacturing facilities accountable for the quality of the vehicles. He made regular visits to the plants and even installed live feeds so he could monitor manufacturing practices to ensure that quality was a top priority.
Mong-Koo also mandated a seven million unit limit on the number of vehicles that could be manufactured each year to ensure that each car was built with the highest attention to quality. In addition to these efforts, Kia revamped its marketing efforts and debuted catchy advertisements to grab the attention of new buyers.
Kia’s Impressive Ratings and Reputation in Today’s Market
As professionals with careers in the auto industry might know, it’s not just quality improvements and savvy marketing that helped turn Kia from a flop into a flourishing brand. Kia hired experienced professionals like luxury auto brand designer Peter Schreyer from Audi as its design chief. Schreyer’s eye for design helped take Kia models from boring and unoriginal to note-worthy and desirable.
While Kia is still haunted by its past and its lingering perception as a low-quality manufacturer, its rough beginnings are long behind it. According to J.D. Power, much to the surprise of car enthusiasts everywhere, Kia received the highest quality score ranking, being the first non-premium brand to top the list for the first time in 27 years! Its Korean cousin brand, Hyundai, was ranked only two behind Kia, clinching the third place spot.
Despite its impressive rankings, Kia still has work to do to claim its rightful position in the Canadian marketplace. According to Statista, Kia’s current market share hovers around only 3.7 per cent. It’s safe to say if Kia keeps making headlines like it has since J.D. Power announced its top spot, it won’t be long before more Kia vehicles end up in Canadian driveways!
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