'We want to continue to own the warranty space,' says Kia's local operations chief, who admits to being 'bemused' by rivals' reluctance to match Kia's seven-year policy
If the chief operating officer of Kia Australia gets his way, it’s just a matter of time before the company extends its mainstream-market-leading warranty – EV maker Tesla has an eight-year plan – to a whopping 10 years in duration.
COO Damien Meredith told us this week that once another mass-market brand launches an equivalent warranty on a permanent basis, he would immediately lobby his Korean head office to green-light a longer period of coverage – potentially 10 years as Kia offers in the USA (albeit where there's a 100,000 mile limit, which Australia would need to supplant).
The brand launched its current seven-year, unlimited-kilometre term in late 2014, and it remains the mass-market’s longest period of cover, now alongside fellow Korean and relative minnow SsangYong. Since then Kia’s sales and market share locally have about doubled. That’s quite a correlation.
Brands to offer seven year warranties as promotional tools for a limited time include Mitsubishi, Renault, Peugeot, Haval, Honda and Holden (each link directs you to the respective policy news). But no brand of mass scale has matched Kia on a permanent basis.
However, we’ve seen a veritable ‘stacks-on’ rush among the biggest car brands to expand their warranties from the once de rigeur period of three years, out to five years, largely aligning their plans with Australian Consumer Law precedents.
Inside the last year or so we’ve seen this exact move made by Toyota, Subaru, Volkswagen, Mazda, Holden, Ford, Honda, Peugeot and Citroen. Nissan is the most notable holdout, now. Read all our recent warranty-related stories on our category page here.
“I’ve always said that if we get challenged we’d look at pulling the trigger,” Meredith told us.
“Would it be our view and recommendation [to Korea] that we do it? The answer is yes… [though] it would take a lot of negotiation,” he said.
He also questioned other brands for their approach to warranties, saying the seven-year plan “had everything to do with Kia’s growth”, up from 28,000 sales in 2014 to almost 59,000 sales last year, and up again in 2019 when it sits in sixth place overall, ahead of Holden, Honda and Volkswagen to name but a few. More on that here.
“I don’t understand why manufacturers were so slow… they were all saying a few years ago it had no impact, but now everyone has gone to five years,” he observed.
“My view is customers value a strong warranty because they feel you can trust the brand. It did give them permission to look at our brand. I found [other brands’ approaches] bemusing,” he said.
While not confirming exactly what period Kia would look to offer, clearly it would want to blow other brands out of the water so it could “continue to own the warranty space”, as Meredith put it.
“10 years I’m sure all of us would agree would be a fair and reasonable period for a car to last,” he suggested.
For background, the Kia warranty covers “defects arising in materials or manufacture” on private, general fleet and government sales, is transferable between owners, and also includes seven years of roadside assist.