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Korean car maker Kia has become the first non-premium brand in 27 years to top the Initial Quality Survey conducted by J.D. Power in the United States.

Now in its 30th year, the J.D. Power IQS is an annual survey that analyses responses from vehicle owners in 26 segments, evaluating driving experience, engine and transmission performance, and a broad range of quality-related problems within the first 90 days of ownership.

Ranking first out of 33 manufacturers in the US, Kia became the first non-premium car maker to top the survey, a feat driven by segment-leading performances from its Soul and Sportage models. Meanwhile, the Forte (Cerato), Rio and Sorento each ranked in the top three of their respective categories.

Michael Sprague, chief operating officer for Kia Motors America, said: “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”.

“As the highest-ranked brand in the industry, there is no doubt Kia is a world-class automaker,” he added.

This year’s survey was the first time since 2006 that non-premium brands have been reported to have less issues that premium brands.

Rounding out the top five manufacturers for initial quality were Porsche, Hyundai, Toyota and BMW.

Chrysler and Jeep were recognised as the most improved brands, while General Motors had seven models top their respective segments.

Toyota had six category toppers, while the Hyundai and Volkswagen groups each had four class-leaders.

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Australia

A similar study carried out by J.D. Power in Australia last year saw Kia rank highly among its local rivals for customer service, ranking fourth behind – in order of satisfaction – Honda, Mazda and Toyota, while beating out the likes of Subaru, stablemate Hyundai, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Volkswagen, Holden, Suzuki and Jeep.

The Korean car maker scored a four-out-of-five for overall satisfaction, matching Toyota, while outclassing the Japanese brand (and matching Mazda and Honda) for service initiation.

Kia Australia communications manager Kevin Hepworth told CarAdvice this week that “the security of the [Kia] seven-year warranty” has been a notable factor in building interest in the brand, and in growing customer satisfaction levels.

“Absolutely, in all sorts of areas. In consideration, in getting people into the showroom – and once you get them into the showroom, the conversion rate is much higher. The seven-year warranty has been excellent.”

“But as far as service is concerned, we’re pleased with the way we’re tracking in Australia. It’s never something you can go to sleep on, you always have to be working at customer satisfaction,” he said.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen very big improvements in our tracking for satisfaction.”

MORE: Kia Soul news and reviews
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