Warranty changes for the 2001 model year are designed to build consumer confidence in imports, make room for alternative fuel vehicles and relieve the cost of maintenance.
Kia leads the way, creating what it dubs its Long Haul warranty program. The automaker now offers a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, up from a five-year/60,000-mile program.
The boost puts Kia in the ranks of Volkswagen, Isuzu and Hyundai, all of which have backed their powertrains with long warranty programs. Kia's basic coverage now lasts for five years/60,000 miles - from three years/36,000 miles - and roadside assistance now is for five years/unlimited miles, from three years/36,000 miles.
'It makes a statement as to how we feel about the dependability of the product,' said Dick Macedo, senior executive vice president of Kia Motors America Inc. Macedo said it also has helped sales. Customer surveys, he said, showed the beefed-up warranty program was 'the number one reason to buy a Kia.' As a result, Macedo said, Kia's new-car sales were up 50 percent in August and September.
Other automakers made smaller changes. Audi of America Inc. bumped its basic coverage and drivetrain to four years/50,000 miles each, from three years/50,000 miles. Roadside assistance is covered for four, rather than three years, with unlimited miles.
Oldsmobile brought its Aurora warranty into line with the rest of its stable. Basic coverage, powertrain and roadside assistance now stands at three years/36,000 miles, down from four years/50,000 miles.
Honda and Toyota each offer an eight-year/100,000-mile battery and hybrid-related component warranty on the Insight and Prius.
Lincoln and Saab joined the recent spate of automakers offering free maintenance programs. Lincoln now offers free scheduled maintenance, such as oil change, tire rotation and multipoint inspections, for three years/36,000 miles.
And Saab now offers a three-year/36,000-mile no-charge maintenance program for its 9-5, 9-3 SE and 9-3 Viggen models.