Mike Rutherford of the Telegraph in London has selected his 'car company of the decade'. His choice may surprise many.
Several mainstream manufacturers are in contention to become my car company of the decade, as I believe Skoda was in the previous 10 years. They include such marques as Audi and Jaguar Land Rover, but only one company is deserving of the accolade, and that's Kia.
The South Korean company has dragged itself from near insolvency to become a respected leader on the world's automotive stage. Currently, it's the eighth biggest car maker on the planet, or fifth largest if you include its sister company Hyundai.
Last year, Kia's 47,000 employees built almost twice as many cars as all the home-grown and foreign manufacturers in Britain put together. But although production volume matters, product quality, desirability, pricing and warranties matter much more. And it is in these important areas where Kia not only competes with its mainstream rivals but wipes the floor with some of them.
Skoda enjoyed a massive transformation after the VW Group acquired control in 1994. Kia hasn't been transformed, it has been revolutionised. It remains 100 per cent South Korean, as does Hyundai, which is supposed to be bigger, better and more upmarket than Kia, but isn't really because it's not as hungry… or vibrant.
While Hyundai is comparatively silent about what it's up to, and makes only half-hearted and optimistic suggestions that it wants to become the next BMW, a bullish Kia told me in Seoul that it accepts that it's not perceived well by many potential customers. But it insists that it has already caught up with the quality levels of rival manufacturers in neighbouring Japan. And it's moving onwards and upwards to wage war on its next victims.
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Kia is indeed on the rise. In 1970 it produced only 6,775 vehicles. Thirty years later annual production hit one million. Last year it was 2.5 million. There are only 49 million people in South Korea (compared with 127 million in Japan), so there's a desperate shortage of home-grown workers, which means that Chinese, American, Slovakian Brazilian, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Russian workers have had to be recruited to man Kia-built car factories on their own soil.
There's more at the link.
I'm a little surprised at his choice, but from an uninformed perspective. I've never driven a Kia vehicle, and having always seen them advertised at much lower prices than their competitors, I'd assumed the company was in the low-cost, low-quality market. This article certainly provides solid evidence that's not the case.
Do any readers have experience of driving Kia vehicles? If so, please let us know in Comments how you've experienced them. Do you agree with Mr. Rutherford's accolades?