Kia wants its first European-built car to offer production quality that matches Toyota's.
Jean-Charles Lievens, Kia Motors Europe senior vice president, believes the lower-medium car produced at the Korean automaker's new factory in Zilina, Slovakia, will be built well enough to be compared with a Toyota model.
"In terms of materials, manufacturing process and perceived quality, we think our first product will be as good [as a Toyota]," Lievens said.
Kia starts series production of the car this autumn. The model, code-named ED (European Dream), will be based on the C'eed concept shown at the Geneva auto show earlier this year.
Lievens said it will take time to raise the overall quality level of Kia's other vehicles – "but it will be a step-by-step process that we will do product by product," he said.
For years Kia has ranked below other automakers in quality.
In 1999, Kia was twice as bad as the industry average in a J.D. Power & Associates survey of initial quality done in the US. At the time, Kia cars had 300 defects per 100 vehicles.
This year, that number was 136 – a big improvment over 1999, but still 12 defects more than the industry average.
Lievens said the production goal at the Zilina plant is 100 units a year per employee. That would be 15 percent to 20 percent better than Toyota's efficiency in Valenciennes, France, where the Yaris is built, he said.
"When you want to enter Europe, you have to benchmark the best," he said. "The manufacturing process is the first step."
You may e-mail Jason Stein at [email protected]