With revamped marketing campaigns, a recommitment to service, and a killer drive (no pun intended) to keep up with the competition, former also-rans such as Kia, Suzuki, an Hyundai made improved showings in 2010 and look set for 2011. What brought about these changes? Can these brands move from car rental status to industry mainstays? Let´s take a look.
The Kia has always ranked near the bottom of the barrel, with arguably the worst discontinued car in the business with the Spectra, holder of a 15 percnt five year residual value. Compare that to the Honda CRV´s 60 percent over three years! Now, Kia has launched more than 4 different models over the last several years, including the Soul, Sorento, and Sportage. The Spectra´s replacement, Forte, is a comeback kid with a new five door hatchback option, luxury features as standard (Bluetooth), and great handling. Many publications place it in the Top 10 in the affordable small cars category, a great improvement.
The worst selling car in America, Suzuki has been plagued by a lack of respectability in part to its motorcycle pedigree and Chrysler-like quality. In a 2008 J.D. Power and Associates survey on quality, Suzuki ranked in 32nd place. Now, everything has changed. In 2009, Suzuki jumped up to 9th place the following year and debuted the Kizashi, a midsize that has bested the Accord, Mazda 6, and Fusion in handling by many publications. At $18000, it is also an excellent value. Let´s see if it can avenge poor sales in 2010 with a strong 2011.
No company brand has climbed back to stability as good as Hyundai has in the past decade. Souring to top spots on quality surveys and winning awards left and right, Hyundai has recommitted itself to quality. The Sonata has collected numerous distinctions, including an NHTSA 5 Star crash rating, the lowest deprectiation for midsize cars in the ALG Residual Value Index, an IIHS Top Safety Pick, and infinitely better PR than the Honda Accord and Camry. It will also be the first to carry lithium polymer battery technology its in 2011 hybrid under the BLUE-DRIVE concept. Not bad for a brand that was considered unreliable several years ago.