“Korean people are very ambitious,” says Mr. Cole. “They work at a fast pace with the aim of making steady progress. These are qualities that all our team possesses to a high degree.” This may not be the only reason for the brand’s increasing worldwide prosperity though. “One of the main pillars of our success is the positioning of the Kia brand,” points out the COO.
Whereas in former years, Kia’s cars were perceived as market-entry products available at favourable prices, the perception today is much different: The company’s price-performance ratio is no longer the main reason why customers decide to buy a Kia model.
“For one thing, we manufacture cars of a very high quality, so much so that we were the first and still are the only brand in the market to implement a seven-year guarantee,” explains Mr. Cole. “In return, this has brought us a huge level of trust on the part of our customers, enhanced by the fact that we transferred part of our production to Europe and provide a broad service network, as well as very good aftersales service. In addition, our products excel in their design. Since our German chief designer Peter Schreyer joined us in 2006, we have won several design awards. Today, we convince our customers on an emotional rather than on a purely rational basis.”
The quality and reliability of Kia products was recognized in the independent J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study. An evaluation of 71 models from 24 brands by 14,000 drivers in Germany saw the Kia Sportage ranked first amongst all models for the second consecutive year.
The 2017 study also saw Kia named Best Car Brand with the lowest overall average vehicle problem score of any manufacturer. With the Stonic, a compact crossover with SUV-inspired design, Kia will introduce an all-new model this year, developed especially for the European market.
As well as 20 two-tone paint combinations and several interior color packages to choose from, the Stonic boasts a range of new driver systems and the latest in-car technologies. Later this year, Kia will also launch the Stinger.
“A true Gran Turismo, the Stinger will be the most powerful, fastest-accelerating and most enjoyable vehicle we’ve ever made, and it truly reflects our aspiration to be recognized as the most design-driven, sporty, modern and innovative mainstream car brand in Europe.”
Kia operates production units not only in Korea, but also in China, the US and Mexico. The European production unit is in Slovakia, where 60% of the cars destined for the European market are manufactured. Just as international is Kia’s export performance.
“We export to 31 countries within Europe and the EU,” explains Mr. Cole. “2017 is set to become a record-breaking year for us. It looks as though we will achieve sales of 470,000 vehicles throughout Europe. For 2018, our goal is to exceed 500,000, and things are shaping up well. For nine years in a row, we have achieved growth within Europe.”
Despite that, or perhaps because of it, Kia is not resting on its laurels. Mr. Cole foresees exciting challenges and developments ahead, for example autonomous driving. “The market is developing in this direction,” he states. “The latest Kia cars already incorporate many advanced driver assistance systems, and these are the key features that enable the delivery of fully autonomous driving. Today, it is more a question of legal and actuarial conditions than of technical feasibility.”
Customer loyalty is also high on the agenda, both now and in the future. “Our customers are our most valuable reference – and our best argument for putting all our effort into making the best possible car,” Mr. Cole concludes.
* The Kia Sportage received the highest numerical score among compact SUVs in the J.D. Power 2017 Germany Vehicle Dependability Study, based on responses from 13,956 German original owners after one to three years of ownership about problems experienced in the past twelve months, surveyed in February-April 2017. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com
In this issue: Gleeds France SAS – Your partner for your building / D. Carnegie & Co AB – Refurbishment formula for safer suburbs / SLM Solutions Group AG – True child of digitization / Hast Retail, s.r.o. – Shopfitting as art / Hyundai WIA Europe GmbH – Banging the drum for Korean machine tools
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