Is Kia’s Inability to Keep Up with Demand Hurting Their Brand?

It wasn’t long ago that Kia’s reputation as a lower tier auto manufacturer preceded them, with initial reliability scores anchoring them to the bottom of J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study rankings. Things started to turn around for them in the mid-2000s, and with 2020’s IQS rankings placing them at the top of the list, the brand’s resurgence from a quality perspective has hit its peak – but how is this translating into sales and overall brand impression?

If growth in year-over-year numbers in the first two months of 2020 (prior to COVID-19 derailing their momentum) and demand of their top-of-the-line SUV are any indication, Kia’s sales and brand are well in-line with their quality rankings.

However, this newfound demand, specifically with their Telluride SUV, appears to be something they’re having difficulty coping withdespite increasing production capacity at nearly 70%. Is this hiccup in production enough to put a dent in their ever-improving brand perception? Let’s look at emerging trends in our Quid and NetBase products to find out.

How Kia Rose To These Heights in The First Place

If you’ve gotten the sense that you’ve been seeing a lot more SUVs on the road in the last couple of years, your perception isn’t wrong. The last time cars in the form of coupes and sedans dominated vehicle sales was 2009, but it has been downhill since then, with pickups and SUVs taking larger slices of the pie each year, to the point where in 2019, roughly 70% of all vehicles sold were pickup trucks and SUVs.

When we run a trend analysis of Kia in the past few years using the Quid product’s media analytics data setwe can see that there has been a significant amount of growth in coverage of their SUVs, and essentially mirroring the growth in market share that SUVs have enjoyed in the past decade, increasing both in volume, as well as the total percentage of stories published.

Quid timeline showing total volume of Kia stories by year and colored by articles that focused on SUVs vs those that didn’t

Quid timeline stacked to 100% showing total volume of Kia stories by year and colored by articles that focused on SUVs vs those that didn’t

You can also see from the chart below that pre-launch coverage of their SUVs have been responsible for spikes in coverage of Kia, with about an average of one new or refreshed SUV per year dating back to 2013. Keep in mind, that this doesn’t include clusters of reviews about these same SUVs after they’ve launched.

Quid timeline showing total volume of Kia stories by year and colored by topic clusters

Out of all the SUVs post-launch, it was the Telluride that drew media attention and retained the hype after it was released, but surprisingly, it was Kia’s entry into the sports sedan market, the Stinger, gobbling up 12% of all Kia stories written in the past 7 years that takes the top spot in aggregate. Together, these new Kia vehicles made up nearly 1/4th of all stories written about Kia in this time frame.

Quid bar chart showing top story clusters based on volume of stories

And while Kia has had their share of speedbumps in the form of recent news about not being able to meet demand with their Telluride, or recalls due to vehicle fires cause by manufacturing defects, coverage has been generally positive with only 2.2% of articles published about Kia in the past 7 years having a negative sentiment.

Quid network map colored by sentiment

Does Consumer Sentiment Reflect News Coverage? 

In the past year, social media posts have been just as positive as media coverage, with keywords like “buy” and “recommend” driving positive sentiment, and with no significant discussions about the defects leading to fires or the Telluride’s production issues.