WARRANTY WAR­FARE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE CONFIDENTIAL - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@news.com.au

THERE’S a new show­room stoush and buy­ers are the win­ners in the warranty war.

Kia is se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing ex­tend­ing its five-year warranty in Aus­tralia to seven years, two ahead of most main­stream brands, as other mi­nor mak­ers look to push into fresh ter­ri­tory.

Citroen brought in a sixyear deal cov­er­ing all but its baby Berlingo van. Renault has ex­tended its five-year para­chute to the high­per­for­mance mod­els it sells in Aus­tralia.

That’s good news for any­one look­ing at a Renault Me­gane RS or Clio RS, as well as the Me­gane GT200 hatch and wagon that have be­come main­stream mod­els and not just a limited-edi­tion deal.

The ex­tra warranty ef­forts re­flect not only the grow­ing qual­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity of all sorts of cars but also the earnest ef­forts of what are known as “chal­lenger brands” to con­vince Aus­tralian buy­ers that they can be trusted. Renault says its warranty costs in Aus­tralia are about a third of what they were six year ago.

AROUND the world, cars are get­ting bet­ter and buy­ers are get­ting a bul­let­proof bonus. Warranty costs and claims are fall­ing dra­mat­i­cally at most ma­jor mak­ers and that’s a re­flec­tion of im­proved qual­ity from the first com­puter strokes through to the fi­nal assem­bly.

There are still flaws, and risk-averse man­age­ment is rush­ing to re­calls at the first signs of po­ten­tial trouble, but the over­all trend is very pos­i­tive for most new-car buy­ers.

Renault says its warranty costs in Aus­tralia have fallen by a whop­ping 68 per cent over the past six years, a re­sult that has jus­ti­fied a five-year un­lim­it­ed­kilo­me­tre warranty that’s even been ex­tended to its Renault Sport per­for­mance cars.

At Kia, warranty costs since 2005 have dropped by nearly three-quar­ters. And that’s de­spite the num­ber of cars cov­ered by the com­pany’s fiveyear warranty um­brella more than dou­bling.

“Us­ing 2005 as the base­line, costs per unit in June this year were down by 71.2 per cent,” says Kia spokesman Kevin Hep­worth.

“At that time, in 2005, the Kia carpark was roughly 60,000 cars un­der warranty. Now there are more than 140,000 un­der warranty. So num­bers have dou­bled and costs have more than halved.” There was a time when Suzuki boasted that the warranty cost on its Vi­tara was just $12 for each car sold in Aus­tralia. That’s an in­cred­i­bly low fig­ure and il­lus­trates the ben­e­fits to buy­ers.

The trend at Suzuki is con­tin­u­ing a sim­i­lar down­ward path to most of the ma­jors, with a dou­ble-digit im­prove­ment since 2010.

“Our warranty costs have dropped 11.9 per cent over the past three years,” says spokesman An­drew El­lis. He won’t go into de­tails but a Suzuki ser­vice chief con­tacted by Cars­guide con­firms the warranty cost in 2013 was lit­tle more than $20 for each car sold. This is prob­a­bly an in­dus­trylead­ing re­sult.

“The longer-term trend is greater re­li­a­bil­ity and less cost for the con­sumer. We see this trend be­ing main­tained,” El­lis says.

But not ev­ery brand is driv­ing its claims down, as Hyun­dai says a vastly big­ger pool of cars and more costly cars has led to a slight in­crease in its warranty costs over the past three years.

“Marginally in­creased warranty costs are to be ex­pected with this shift,” Hyun­dai spokesman Bill Thomas says.

“We may see slightly in­creased warranty costs per unit as we sell more pre­mium ve­hi­cles, be­cause peo­ple have cor­re­spond­ingly higher ex­pec­ta­tions of those ve­hi­cles. It’s not to do with di­min­ished re­li­a­bil­ity. Ul­ti­mately, the cus­tomer is the win­ner.”

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