How Did Genesis and Kia Do It?

In today’s market, it is more about what are you doing right now than 50 years ago. You prove yourself today, right now, and if you do it well enough, then you can achieve success like Genesis and Kia have reached.

Consider these two groups of car companies:

  • Genesis and Kia
  • Jaguar and Land Rover

Genesis is the fairly new luxury brand that was announced by Hyundai Motor in November 2015. Kia is the more mass-market vehicle brand that is part of the Hyundai Motor Group.

Jaguar and Land Rover are both part of, well, Jaguar Land Rover, which is a subsidiary of Tata Motors, which purchased each of the companies from Ford in 2008 and which created the combined company in 2013.

The second pair is well known for the luxury vehicles they have on the market, with Jaguar perhaps known most for its sports cars and Land Rover for the utility vehicles that have a global reputation for being able to traverse the globe.

Genesis is becoming, slowly, known for the stylish cars it is putting on the scene (Luc Donckerwolke, who had an impressive body of work for Volkswagen Group is heading up Genesis design). Kia, thanks in large part to the design direction of Peter Schreyer (who, prior to joining Kia in 2006, was known for his work for Volkswagen Group, as well, the Audi TT, in particular), has gone from being a company known for what are sometimes referred to as “cheap and cheerful” cars to being a builder of impressive cars and crossovers.

I didn’t create these two groups arbitrarily. Actually, the pairings are predicated on results of the J. D. Power 2018 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS), which measures the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP 100) during the first 90 days of ownership. The lower the number of problems, the higher the ranking.

There are 31 nameplates in the rankings. The best is Genesis with a PP 100 of 68. Kia comes in second place with a PP 100 of 72.

As for Jaguar and Land Rover, they’re at the bottom of the 2018 IQS rankings, with measures of 148 and 160 PP 100, respectively.

To put these numbers into context, know that the industry average is 93.

Now it should be pointed out that according to J.D. Power, the quality of vehicles has, overall, improved for the last four years and that this year’s numbers are the best-ever, with an improvement of 4 percent compared to 2017.

One of the findings in the study is that the Porsche 911 has the best score for 2018 and the best of any vehicle in the current generation (2013 to 2018) of the IQS: just 48 PP 100. That led me to think that perhaps one of the drivers of a good IQS ranking is making a comparatively low number of vehicles: in 2017 there were just 8,970 911s sold in the U.S.

But that can’t be the case because although Genesis sold just 20,612 vehicles in the U.S. last year, Kia sold 589,668. And the two companies at the bottom had sales numbers on the low side, 74,739 for Land Rover and 39,594 for Jaguar.

While there might be something to be said for having strong design people like Donckerwolke and Schreyer involved, it should be noted that Gerry McGovern, chief design officer for Land Rover, and Ian Callum, Jaguar design director, certainly aren’t slouches by any means. Certainly having solid design direction is important in terms of creating appealing vehicles, but then there is the issue of being certain that there is the underlying engineering that creates the foundation and the execution of the vehicles that have been visualized by design. Ford’s former chief designer J Mays used to say that it cost the same amount to stamp an attractive body panel as it did an unappealing one. But if there is an entire suite of beautiful panels and they are assembled with the other components of a vehicle such that the sum is something that provides more problems to the customer than the beauty can transcend, then the customers aren’t going to be particularly pleased.

Perhaps there is something else that accounts for the J.D. Power IQS success of Genesis and Kia and the less-than-average performance of Jaguar and Land Rover. Jaguar was established in 1935. Land Rover is celebrating its 70th anniversary. The first vehicle that Kia manufactured goes back to 1951—a bicycle. Arguably, it didn’t become an automotive manufacturer onto its own (i.e., not building other company’s products under license) until 1986. As previously mentioned, Genesis isn’t even four years old.

Isn’t it possible that in the cases of both Genesis and Kia there is an organization drive to outperform, to prove to the world that they’re designing, engineering and producing vehicles that are as good as or better than those coming from other OEMs? After all, there isn’t much in the way of history to fall back on for either of them.

In today’s market, it is more about what are you doing right now than 50 years ago. You prove yourself today, right now, and if you do it well enough, then you can achieve success like Genesis and Kia have reached.