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Kia reliability vs. Honda

1. Introduction

Kia and Honda are the largest companies heard by people today. They are companies that produce and sell various car models. In the car making community, both companies are equals. But in the eyes of the customers, Honda is considered a lot more than Kia when buying a car. Why would this happen? After making a clear comparison between Kia and Honda, the reliability factor in both companies is the most important thing that makes Honda more considered than Kia. QDR (Quality, Dependability, and Reliability) are terms created by J.D. Power and Associates Ratings. This term is very suitable for the reliability comparison between Kia and Honda. First, we will look at Honda's QDR. Honda is known for taking a long time to develop a car and the new car model won't be released until they are very sure about the car. This way, Honda always succeeds in improving their car quality and reliability with a long testing period before releasing a new car. The step taken by Honda is very different from Kia. Kia always hits the market with their new car as soon as possible to attract customers. The result of Kia's action is very dangerous because they have to skip the long testing period and release the car while it's still in an uncertain state. This is decreasing Kia's car quality and reliability. The evidence is that there are many recalls for Kia cars to fix and improve their car components. This is very different from Honda. Lastly, Honda's presence in the car market is very strong with their cars always in demand. This thing is disputable if we look at both companies' strengths today, with Honda and Kia having a high level of achievement in the manufacturing of vehicles across the globe. But there is an interesting turn around. After conducting an interview, Kia's engineering team leader stated that the company is striving to build a better foundation for car development. Thus, in the long run, this will improve Kia's car quality. This is a disadvantage for Kia today because it's only a planning and we can't see the real result. The steps taken by Honda and the evidence that is clearly visible make Honda have better QDR than Kia. Hence, in this factor, we can conclude that Honda got grade A while Kia only got grade B. Grade A achievement that has been obtained by Honda in their reliability factor is making Honda always receive the highest grade in earning J.D. Power Ratings and Awards (an award that is dedicated to car manufacturers that have success in improving car product quality). With their long and consistent quality and reliability improvement and the strong evidence of Honda itself, make Honda always be the first brand to be considered when someone wants to buy a car. This is reflected in the survey that has been conducted in the United States. Honda is always on the list of the best cars to be resold with the highest level of demand and the highest price. Different conditions with Kia. Kia only receives many questions and purchasing interest is still considered with the Kia star, which is a long time warranty, featuring a cheap car price and a safe bet, and not the real evidence of their car reliability improvement. The steps taken by Honda and the results from those steps can provide strong evidence that Honda has a more advanced reliability factor than Kia today. With the QDR term, it's not easy to change the grade A that has already been obtained by Honda, and Honda is sure to keep this strong foundation to improve their car quality in the future. In the end, when viewed from the comparison between Honda and Kia's reliability factor on the QDR term, it's very clear from the steps taken by both companies and the visible evidence that Honda is better compared to Kia. It's a far cry that can be achieved by Kia to catch up to Honda's reliability at this time. To learn more about: are kias good cars please visit out Introduction to Kia Ownership Benefits page.

2. Reliability Factors

Improving the overall quality of Kia vehicles is a move that has been made in recent times. According to the 2016 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study with a sample size of 5,400 consumers, Kia has improved reliability by 17% from last year, which they note as the biggest surge by any brand in recent times. This improvement was not exclusive to dependability, wherein the same year Kia was ranked number 1 amongst all car brands by JD Power in initial quality. Initial quality measures problems experienced in the first 90 days of ownership, awarded on a basis of problems per 100 vehicles, thus a higher quality vehicle has fewer problems. These quality improvements are a result of Kia's main investment area into positive R&D results. This elevated quality was noted in an interview with Kia Europe's Chief Operating Officer Michael Cole. He states that a key sales advantage will be the consistent increase in quality, specifically the forthcoming new cars will be taking Kia to places it has never been before. With regards to his statement, such success has been seen with the introduction of the new Kia Sportage and Stinger models, both being awarded with top safety picks from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety in America. This increase in quality assurance can ensure that higher quality components are used in the manufacturing of these vehicles. This should see a further improvement of these reliability ratings in years to come.

Reliability sits at the top of the tree of what every consumer should be looking at when purchasing a new vehicle. After all, going back to the local dealership for repairs on a brand-new car isn't exactly anyone's idea of a good time. According to Honda, their philosophy of producing cars is to create high-quality products with advanced, innovative, and unique features. This philosophy correlates with reliability, whereby using higher quality components, a vehicle is less likely to have mechanical failures. Kia had a significant brand renaissance in the early 2010s, with brand new designs and advertisements, even sponsoring the NBA. Thus, with a new brand identity introduced, the next step was to introduce higher quality components.

2.1. Quality of Components

Kia, on the other hand, has an automatic fail on component creation. Studies show that Kia has had its employees make each component and this proved to be disastrous in terms of component quality. This system resulted in Kia spending almost 4.7 times the amount that Honda spends in warranty claims per vehicle. To avoid further issues with these faulty components, Kia has moved to outsourcing the creation of its components. Although this is a good strategy, Kia currently has low brand loyalty and it is likely that a supplier would only want to manufacture Kia components for a short time. Given that a supplier is only at a breakeven level with Kia, it is not likely that they will make very high-quality components. The abundance of cheaply made outsourced components could potentially create current and future reliability issues for Kia vehicle.

Honda has a top-notch supplier selection process that ensures the best components made by said suppliers. There are deliverables set and a scorecard that grades the supplier, feedback is given off the grade and any supplier that falls below a certain mark is at risk of losing their business with Honda. This system is proven to work as in the late 1990s when Honda was having automatic transmission problems, the company discovered that the faulty transmissions were not made in-house and were able to narrow it down to a sole supplier. This allowed Honda to end its contract with the supplier and move its business to a supplier making higher quality transmissions.

Faulty components cause reliability problems, therefore car companies must be careful in the selection of their components. Should a company decide to make their components, they must be careful that their suppliers have the ability to produce the component for the value the company is willing to pay.

2.2. Manufacturing Process

An example of a consistent component would be a transmission which has consistently lasted 150,000 miles. Compare this to Kia and Ford's frame of sharing vehicle components, which has resulted in a consistency problem for both manufacturers. An example of this would be a part for a Ford Contour that my roommate purchased that wasn't even molded correctly and would not properly install. This prompted several returns of the part, and in many cases poor fitment of a replacement part for an OEM part that was to be replaced. One may argue that this may improve Kia's current component quality, but for the years in which both manufacturers have shared parts, it has actually reduced Ford's and Mazda's component quality on new vehicles and the old vehicles that the parts were originally designed for.

The manufacturing process of vehicles influences the quality of the product. A more robust and more reliable vehicle can result from a consistent, well-monitored production process, versus a vehicle made in a small factory with inconsistencies in production. This concept is illustrated by Honda and Kia's approach to manufacturing. In recent times, Honda has been a leader in manufacturing technique innovation. One of these advancements is the utilization of "smart" robots in its manufacturing. The robots are designated with the task of assembling a single component on a specific automobile, while utilizing a 3D image to check its work. The employment of these robots results in a consistent, quality assembly of vehicle components. If Honda's component quality has been consistent, better reliability has been achieved.

2.3. Vehicle Testing

Kia conducts road testing in many different locations. The first test is usually carried out in Korea using the test track located at Kia's Hwasung R&D facilities. This track contains many different road surfaces, and usually, new Kia models are road tested for several months to up to a year before production. Additional road tests are carried out in Europe and North America, where vehicles are tested on the real-world roads to ensure they perform correctly. By testing in many different locations, Kia can also ensure that vehicles will perform well in different environments and climate conditions.

Test vehicles for both manufacturers are put through rigorous road testing. Honda tests vehicles at the two Japan-based Honda R&D facilities in Tochigi and Asaka. These test tracks contain many different road surfaces, simulating real-world road conditions, and are set up to perform high-speed endurance testing. Several other tests, such as brake and suspension testing, are also performed to identify and prevent problems before vehicles are manufactured.

3. Customer Satisfaction

All things considered, it is difficult to define how reliability in specific components contributes to overall customer satisfaction. In general, Honda has a more lauded history of reliability compared to Kia, and it is often said that "Honda makes a car and driver" while Kias are known for being cheap. However, data seems to indicate that Kias, or at least the Spectra, are not a bad choice compared to similar Honda models in recent years. The cost of a used car should also be considered when comparing two vehicles and their reliability, as a cheaper car does not necessarily mean a better deal if it costs more in the long run. The Spectra's greater than average mechanical reliability compared to most Civics, and better ownership costs and depreciation, may, in fact, make it a better choice despite the Civic's better history of reliability in repairs at a higher cost. In any case, the experiences of any individual will be the ultimate determinant in how reliable a vehicle has been.

Other key factors influencing customer satisfaction are the costs related to ownership and the resale value of a vehicle. The Spectra again rates well compared to Civics of a similar age in terms of ownership costs. Ownership costs are defined as the average sum of money spent on the vehicle each year across various categories of repairs, maintenance, and issues, as well as the money lost from the vehicle's depreciation. The predicted ownership cost of the Spectra is considerably better than that of most Civics of similar age, and the calculated depreciation is also better. These results are indicative of lasting mechanical reliability. However, it must be noted that the Civic has fared better in the area of insurance rates. In comparing maintenance and repair costs to a Civic of a similar age, it is apparent that the costs are much higher for Civics due to a higher labor rate and more expensive parts. However, in a general comparison between Kia and Honda, the costs are still much higher for the Kia, as foreign car repair costs are generally higher regardless of where parts are acquired. With the increase in fuel prices during recent years, fuel efficiency is also a large factor in overall ownership costs, and Kias have generally fared well in this category. The Spectra is still a very economical vehicle, all things considered, though all Civics and Honda vehicles in general have had very good fuel efficiency. Being 2002-2008 Spectra's and Civics in similar condition tend to have similar resale value, which, like ownership costs and repair costs, is indicative of better reliability, given that the Civic is generally a higher-priced car when new.

In order to determine how reliable Kia and Honda automobiles are, it is necessary to examine how satisfied the owners of these cars have been. As of the time of writing, there are no reports covering the specific reliability of Kia automobiles. However, the Spectra and several other models scored very well in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. The Spectra, in particular, rates about average in this category compared to all other vehicles. Honda has also fared very well in this study, with many of their vehicles rating above average or much better. The Spectra also rates well in the area of mechanical reliability, though Honda nevertheless comes out on top with a rating well above average. During the time of its production, the Spectra has had no recalls, while there have been 9 recalls of various Civic models from 2001-2008. With reference to these factors, J.D. Power rates the Spectra's predicted reliability above that of any Civic model in the corresponding year.

3.1. Ownership Experience

Honda significantly outperformed Kia's initial quality rating. Reporting only 93 problems per 100 vehicles, Honda showed that their vehicles are much less likely to have issues at the beginning of ownership. Free repairs on under warranty vehicles were only done on 9% of Honda vehicles. This is a more reliable figure once it is a comparison to the 14.5% for Kia at the same stage. Honda's long-term quality analysis exhibited 106 problems per 100 vehicles, with only 12.5% on under warranty vehicles receiving a free repair. This data shows that there is not much of a difference between Honda's initial quality and long-term quality. This is a positive as they are not showing any signs of declining in quality. This is in contrast to a drop in long-term quality from Kia and signifies a better ownership experience.

Kia owners reported 115 problems per 100 vehicles. Issues include any problems with the vehicle, from a paint chip to a malfunctioning transmission. Only three percent of these issues would be considered serious. Free repairs were made on 14.5% of 2017 vehicles. Kia's long-term quality rating saw 150 problems per 100 vehicles and a 15% rate for free repairs at the dealership. This is a drop in quality from their initial quality rating. This drop in quality shows that the Kia brand may still have a somewhat negative reputation and has hindered their progression towards a more reputable company.

Participants in the Motor Vehicle Dependability Study rated various aspects of their ownership experience. These included the driving experience, the initial quality at the time of purchase, and long-term quality. Initial Quality measures problems experienced by the original owner of a three-year-old vehicle after 90 days of ownership. Long-term quality is determined by the reported problems with the vehicle. Vehicles driven issue-free for 12 months will generally not experience any problems with the vehicle. Free repairs were changes made to the vehicle under warranty that cost the owner nothing.

3.2. Maintenance Costs

The cost of maintaining a vehicle, accumulated through money spent by time spent at the auto shop, is a major part of owning any vehicle. In an attempt to break down the cost of maintaining each vehicle, I figured the easiest way to make a relative comparison would be to go through the owner's manual of every year of the car, find the recommended services for that mileage and price it out using a reasonable hourly price for a qualified mechanic and the average national price of that service. Adding in the time spent at the dealer with repair records provides a relative comparison of maintenance costs between the two vehicles. While it is impossible to include all services through a 200,000 mile span, I focused on major services including: Engine and transmission oil changes, coolant system maintenance, transmission and brake service, battery replacement, tire replacement, and replacement of major engine components. Consumer reports has a detailed chart showing the reliability of every year of every car from its subscribers' surveys, so I compiled the results for all years of each car into a more comprehensible ranking from 1-10. If a certain year was not provided, that year of the car had no major problems. These results were accounted for twice, once using each of the two ranking systems. Carcomplaints.com also had a convenient chart of problem type and occurrence by year, so results there were used to gauge common problems and find years of excessive problems for each car. A preliminary run of the 2014 Kia Forte against the 8th generation Accord had already been done granulating data for a previous article, so the run was redone and year ratings only were updated to match the above ranking systems then added to the compilation. This would provide the most detailed and accurate comparison of cost reliability between the two cars. Remembering the goal is to compare both vehicles, I have assigned a relative cost Y for the Kia and a relative cost X for the Honda, and the goal is to minimize the difference Y-X.

3.3. Resale Value

So the answer to the question of the contrast of reliability between Kia and Honda is very clear. Honda is above the industry average in terms of reliability, while Kia is slightly below. Given that these companies are competing for the same market segment, they are the logical choice to compare when considering a new car purchase. The differences in reliability are significant and affect many areas, including ownership experience, safety, repair costs, and resale value. Based on these factors, it’s clear that Honda comes out on top compared to Kia. For someone considering the purchase of a compact or midsize car, the extra money spent on a Honda can be saved in lower repair costs and higher resale value. This will contribute to an overall lower cost of ownership and a more enjoyable ownership experience for the life of the vehicle.

The resale value, which is vital to the cost of ownership element of any vehicle, is how much the vehicle will be worth at the end of its use. The resale value of Hondas is a very strong factor in their favor. Honda has a reputation for building automobiles that are long-lasting and reliable. These factors contribute to the resale value. Based on an average of all its models, Honda is above the industry average in terms of resale value. Kia, however, is slightly below the industry average in regards to resale value. This is because Kias are still striving to become more durable. The improvements in reliability will result in a higher resale value that is $1500 higher on average. Resale value is primarily based on long-term reliability, so if Kia continues to improve, that $1500 figure must grow.

4. Expert Opinions

Honda and Kia are rated close to each other in initial quality by consumers. Couple this with Kia's class-leading 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and it's certainly a compelling case for anyone shopping for a vehicle they want to own for a long time. I don't see Honda having any more problems than Kia within that 10-year period. On Kia, despite recent quality and design improvements, the word is slow to spread, so it fares worse on more public opinion-based tools such as Consumer Reports Brand Report Cards. Coming from a 2002 that had a few too many issues, I'd say that's a fair result so far from my own positive bias towards Kia. JD Power Initial Quality Survey does not have specific information for Kia vs Honda. JD Power is always quite conservative, so if they did show the two brands close in recent surveys, I'd hazard to guess that JD Power would predict Kia's future reliability as surpassing Honda sometime in the next decade. JD Power Vehicle Dependability Survey rated on 3-7-year-old vehicles probably gives the best current comparison. With Kia climbing into the top 10 brands named by the study last year (to #6 if I remember correctly), above Honda, things are definitely looking up for Kia.

4.1. Automotive Reviews

Consumer Reports have given very positive marks in vehicle reliability to Honda and very poor marks to Kia. Specific ratings can always be found on the Consumer Reports website. The information used for the ratings is collected from surveys of new car buyers from the years when the reported vehicles would have been new. This provides subjective but potentially more accurate impressions of reliability compared to data from surveys of vehicle owners in more recent years. One general observation is that Honda has maintained a very high standard of reliability and has rarely produced a "bad year" for any of its vehicles. This contrasts starkly with Kia, who have manufactured quite a few models with severe and chronic reliability problems.

Kia vehicles are often presented as a cheaper and decisively less reliable alternative to similar Honda models by many car reviewing sources. The word "reliable" is often tied into the overall perception or image of a vehicle or a vehicle's brand, but it is important to make a distinction between perceived reliability and actual reliability. An example of perceived reliability would be a vehicle that is thought to be reliable because it is still a relatively new vehicle with low mileage. In reality, it has needed many repairs and has experienced frequent failures but is still perceived a lot better than it actually is. Kia vehicles are often victims of this sort of perception, being new vehicles that have often proven to be quite unreliable.

However, they provide an interesting comparison between competitor models in a similar way to industry ranking press. A notable review provider is Consumer Reports magazine. The Consumer Reports website also provides many reviews and comparisons between popular buying choices. Their data is based on surveys conducted with their subscribers, and it is well known that Honda vehicles enjoy especially strong popularity with American new car buyers.

Consequently, they are unlikely to provide accurate reflections of real-life longevity for vehicles. Many reviews are taken from vehicles that have already experienced several years of wear and tear.

4.2. Industry Rankings

According to JD Power's 2013 Vehicle Dependability Survey, Kia had a dependability rating of 140 PP100 (higher number meaning lower reliability) and Honda had a rating of 119 PP100. Honda's rating was better than the industry average of 133 PP100, whereas Kia's was worse. JD Power's 2013 Quality Study rankings had Honda at 170 PP100 and Kia at 140. Honda was 8th overall and above 3rd among compact car manufacturers, whereas Kia was slightly below the industry average of 113 at 115 PP100. In Consumer Reports' 2010 Annual Auto Survey, Honda was ranked 3rd overall and Kia was ranked 20th. These rankings reveal that industry professionals and consumers alike generally perceive Honda to have higher reliability than Kia. Although 3-year-old vehicles were not available for ratings, it is a safe assumption that given the patterns of PP100 ratings from JD Power, which shift very little over the years, the rankings would be similar to those of the Dependability Survey. These rankings are consistent with the perception that Korean brands are generally less reliable than Japanese brands.

Annual industry rankings can provide a useful perspective on how the reliability of automotive brands is viewed by consumers and auto industry professionals. One of the most influential of these studies is the annual vehicle dependability survey conducted by J.D. Power. It surveys original owners of three-year-old cars regarding problems experienced in the past 12 months across 200 different problem symptoms and provides dependability measurements in terms of the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (problems per 100 vehicles, PP100). J.D. Power also conducts an Initial Quality Study on problems experienced by new car owners in the first 3 months of ownership and provides quality ratings, reported as problems per 100 vehicles. Consumer Reports is another well-regarded resource that provides dependability/reliability ratings based on subscriber reports of problems experienced on one to 10-year-old vehicles. JD Power and Consumer Reports tend to be useful indicators of long-term quality since problems with initial quality tend to be indicative of potential future reliability issues.

4.3. Long-Term Reliability Studies

Recalls, of course, are actions taken by the manufacturer to remedy a safety-related defect. They are a bad sign for the long-term reliability of the vehicle. A recall for a fuel pump flange on the 2011 Kia Soul and the 2013 Hyundai Elantra is an example of something that can cause long-term reliability problems. A more direct source of TSBs comes from automotive service technicians, who are well informed of the problems of certain cars. This helps consumers to diagnose the problem in the event that they have found one of the few competent and honest auto mechanics. Unfortunately, TSBs do cost money to access.

There are, however, two consumer-oriented sources that are quite useful for long-term reliability data. These are recalls and Technical Service Bulletins (TSBs). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains databases on recalls of all makes and models of cars sold in the US since 1966, and on consumer complaints filed with the NHTSA. The data from the former can be found in the NHTSA's recall database, and information on the latter can be found at the NHTSA's consumer complaint database.

The exception is in instances where a particular car has a long-standing defect. In this situation, data may be available because a class-action lawsuit will have made enough information public record to be useful. Unfortunately, there are very few instances where this will serve as a source of information about the overall long-term reliability of a car from a certain brand, as class-action lawsuits generally only deal with defects that would have occurred to a small percentage of owners. You also can read our article Kia vs Honda reliability.

All of the aforementioned consumer-oriented sources typically deal with the issue of long-term vehicle quality. However, because of the difficulty of following vehicles many years to gather data, and because of the huge costs in doing so, consumer-oriented sources rarely have much helpful information concerning the long-term reliability of various brands of cars.​​​​​​​