Kia car owners in Malaysia will have to wait for another few months until the new importer and distributor is officially appointed by Kia Motor Corporation (KMC) based in South Korea.

“It should be about the 2nd half of the year. We also have to negotiate and operationalise the local assembly of new and current models,” said a senior manager participating in the formation of the new Kia car franchise in Malaysia.

The Hyundai-Kia car brand is one of the stellar performers in the global car industry, in fourth place after Toyota, VW and the Renault-Nissan Alliance.

The Kia franchise hand-over is taking longer than normal because of more companies involved and the additional due-diligence processes.

The Malaysian party, understood to be part of the Berjaya Group, is keen to establish the manufacturing operation in joint-venture with KMC.

Until the new importer come-franchise holder is announced, Naza-Kia remains the official franchise holder for Kia cars sold in Malaysia.

But the outpouring of grief on social media platforms reflects that a lot of love has been lost in this interim period.

About 200,000 Kia cars that have been sold in Malaysia since 1999 when the franchise was changed from Cycle & Carriage.

The immediate problem for most of the car owners is that they have to pay for their scheduled servicing even though alternate servicings are supposed to be free of charge (FoC).

Secondly, cars that have approved warranty claims are still sitting in the dealers’ workshops for months because the parts are not available. How much longer can customers wait for their cars to be repaired under warranty?

Free servicing is a commitment between the customer and franchise holder.

When a car is sold by the branch or dealer, the price that is fixed by the franchise holder includes the free servicings and the average cost of warranty.

 A lot of dealers are not doing the free service anymore because they think that they aren’t going to be reimbursed by the franchise holder.

Many customer complaints are surfacing on FaceBook. The recurring theme is that there are so many complaints to the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Industry that the Ministry has advised owners to proceed directly to the tribunal for claims less than RM25,000.

Mr Mak Wai Tuck is one of the few Kia dealers who is a 2S dealer – spare parts and servicing. A winner of many “Best Service” awards, his Kia service centre in Hicom Glenmarie, Shah Alam, is the to-go-to workshops when KMC managers visit Malaysia.

Confirming that in the current circumstances of inadequate support from the current franchise holder, he has no choice but to charge Kia customers for servicing, even the alternate servicing which is supposed to be FoC during the warranty period.

“We understand the dilemma of our customers in this interim period where we have to charge for the free service. We try to adjust where we can, basically reducing labour charge, because we want our customers to come back.

“Our Kia customer are very different from Honda and Toyota customers. Our Kia owner is more likely to be from the salaried class and they shop around the dealers for the best price and quality of service.

Joseph Raj, the owner of the Kia Puchong 3S dealership, has a different view on this transitional period.

“I’m providing the scheduled free service for our customers. Even the Kia owners who bought from the Kia Red Cube branches that have closed.

“For warranty claims, we tell the customer that we’ll submit the warranty claim and when it’s approved, we have to wait for the parts.  Everything we’ll do except that we won’t get the parts in time. And we don’t know when. At least we tell the owners that we have to wait until the new franchise holder is appointed. We have to tell the owners the truth.

 “Kia is a good brand and makes great cars. The Hyundai-Kia brand is already the 4th biggest car-maker in the world after Toyota, VW and Renault Nissan Alliance. I know the Kia brand is going to fly in Malaysia once this interim period is over.

“I know I’m taking a risk but I also want to invest in strengthening relationships with our Kia owners, their friends and families,” he said.

In the meantime, here’s what you should do if you have a Kia car, especially if it’s within the warranty period.

  1. File the receipts and job order of the car’s scheduled servicing and warranty claims, if performed .
  2. Keep the servicing of your Kia car within the Kia dealer network to maintain the validity of the car’s warranty.
  3. If the Red Cube (the name for Naza-Kia’s branches) where you bought your Kia is permanently closed, you can get the same scheduled servicing for your car at other authorised Kia dealers.
  4.  Even if you have to pay for what is a free service, just pay and keep the receipt for later reimbursement by whichever party is contractually obliged.
  5. If you have a faulty component that’s approved for a warranty claim in this interim period and your sales dealer can’t get it fixed within a reasonable period, you may have to wait for until the middle of the year for the new franchise holder to take over.
  6. Or you might want to expedite it and pay for the part and labour done by the Kia dealer, under protest, and to claim for reimbursement.