Kia’s Surprise Win Of U.S. Automobile Quality Study To Boost Its Sales

Kia on Thursday made a surprise win after topping an annual car quality study by consultancy firm J.D. Power and Associates, beating luxury brands like Porsche and Chrysler. In the three-decade history of the study, this is the first time in 27 years that a non-premium automobile brand has been ranked on top.

In the J.D. Power 2016 Initial Quality Study, Kia vehicles were found to have had the fewest problems within the first 90 days of purchase, BBC reported. Kia is followed on the list by Porsche, Hyundai, Toyota, and BMW.

Four vehicle models from Kia’s parent company Hyundai Motor Group – Kia Soul, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Accent, and Hyundai Azera – were ranked as the highest in their respective segments. Other vehicles from Kia (including the Kia Rio, Kia Forte, and Kia Sorento) were also ranked highly.

Ranking number one in the entire industry for initial quality is the result of Kia’s decade-long focus on craftsmanship and continuous improvement, and reflects the voice of our customers, which is the ultimate affirmation,” the Chief Operating Officer and EVP of Kia Motors America, Michael Sprague, said in a press release. “As the highest ranked brand in the industry, there is no doubt that Kia is a world-class automaker.”

Kia has noted that the result of J.D. Power and Associates’ latest ranking could boost its sales even more, Yonhap reported. Kia’s sales have been skyrocketing. In the first quarter of 2016, Kia sold a record 146,321 cars. The company’s surprise record-setting pace has continued, as it sold 69,926 cars in May, according to Kia-World.

“There is a direct correlation between the number of problems a customer has with their vehicle and the decisions they make when it comes time to purchase or lease their next car or truck,” said Renee Stephens, J.D. Power’s Vice President of U.S. automotive quality.

Kia has released more than a dozen new models of its vehicles this year. But it has not been all rosy for the South Korean company. Kia and Hyundai recently placed a recall for up to 400,000 cars due to safety issues, according to Automotive News. Kia’s recall only affected its Sedona minivan and 2013 Kia Forte vehicles sold in 27 states, while Hyundai placed a recall for its 2016 Tucson crossover.

The Kia Sedona on display.
Kia is recalling up to 98,000 units of its Kia Sedona minivan, built between 2005 and 2012, due to an issue with corrosion that may affect the front lower arm of the car if it is exposed to salt water, CNET’s Road Show reported. The company is also recalling 219,800 units of its Kia Sedona minivan, built between 2006 and 2014, due to a problem with the secondary hood latch. Hyundai is recalling 81,000 units of its 2016 Tucson crossover, built between 2015 and 2016, due to a similar issue with the secondary hood latch. Additionally, Kia is recalling 5,245 units of its 2013 Kia Forte, built between September and October 2012, due to a fault with the seatbelt. The company has directed owners of affected cars to visit its dealerships for the faults to be fixed for free.

The J.D. Power ranking is based on a survey of 80,000 drivers. The survey evaluates a range of performance-related issues such as engine performance, as well as navigation and entertainment systems and overall driving experience.

Besides Kia, J.D. Power noted that there has been a general improvement in a majority of the other automobile brands surveyed. For the first time in ten years, J.D. Power revealed that non-premium car brands recorded fewer complaints than the top brands.

“Manufacturers are currently making some of the highest quality products we’ve ever seen,” Stephens said.

While Kia sat on top of the ranking, at the bottom of the list was Volvo, Fiat, and Smart Automobile respectively.

[Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images]