By on September 10, 2018

There’s a good reason why insurance premiums are rising like your author’s blood pressure while scanning his Twitter feed, and it’s not just because providers really, really like making money. (They do, of course.) Average repair bills in the U.S. rose by about a third in the past three years, mainly due to the proliferation of safety technology, and insurance premiums followed. Country-wide, premiums rose 7.9 percent in 2017.

Cameras, ultrasonic sensors, and radar sensors tend to be located in areas of the vehicle most prone to damage, even in even low-speed collisions, and sturdy, exposed 5 mph bumpers are unfortunately a thing of the past. Many would prefer to see all automakers design their cars with repairs in mind, thus lowering future costs and premiums.

As an example of the headache of repairing technology-festooned vehicles, behold the average front-corner collision repair cost of one rare Korean sedan.

How does a bill for $34,000 sound? Keep in mind that this vehicle has little to no cachet and depreciates like it’s going out of style. Yes, we’re talking about the Kia K900, aka the Kia LeBron.

Speaking on Autoline This Week, John Van Alstyne, CEO and president of collision repair educator I-CAR, used the seldom-purchased luxury sedan as an example of the nightmare facing body shops in our modern, safety-obsessed age.

“At the end of the day, we’re advocating to OEMs to design for repair,” Van Alstyne said, crediting Ford for its efforts in this area. “You see OEMs kind of having different strategies of the location of these (high-tech) components. Getting it off the bumper is probably a good idea, because bumpers see damage all the time.”

“A normal left-front corner hit on [a Kia K900] results in a repair bill of circa $34,000, compared to an average of about $8,000,” he added. “So what happens there? Insurance cost go up, total lifecycle cost goes up, driven by cost of repair.”

The statistic Van Alstyne tossed out doesn’t come with a lot of context, but it’s not as if the K900 doesn’t have fellow travellers in the outrageous repair bill crowd. Adding a damaged safety system to the cost of straightening steel and affixing a new front fascia isn’t likely to make the owner’s (or insurance provider’s) wallet happier. Still, as far as we know, the K900 is an outlier in its field.

Luckily, there’s precious few of them around. As it prepares to launch an inexplicable second-generation model, Kia sold 27 K900s in the U.S. in August, down from the 35 it sold in August of last year, the 53 it sold in August 2016, and the 386 (!) sold in August 2015. The model’s popularity in Canada, where Kia sold seven K900s in 2017, probably isn’t worth mentioning.

[Image: Kia Motors]

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49 Comments on “For What It’s Worth, a Kia K900 Front Corner Collision Will Cost You Dearly...”

  • avatar

    K-900 gives the owner Rolls Royce exclusivity at a Kia price. The only difference is that a fender-bender sends the K-900 to the recycle bin.

  • avatar

    Hmmmmm currently awaiting the estimate for wife’s Terrain, low speed front end collision (I was driving, traffic stopped short, I didn’t – maybe one day I’ll stop kicking my own a$$ over it. Fortunately no one hurt beyond soreness.) Luckily wasn’t even hard enough to set off the airbags but did buckle the hood, no interference on opening the doors.

    FYI the 2nd gen K900 is going to be TT 3.3 V6 only – that complex plumbing (inter-cooler, turbos, etc) is only going to make repairs more costly depending on what sort of accident occurs.

    • 0 avatar

      My sympathies and commiseration. I backed the corner of my Genesis into something (despite beeping) and damaged the radar sensor for cross traffic. It is housed behind the bumper, which was merely scratched. The sensor was $1350, plus installation and resetting the system…..oouch.
      As far as front end collisions, the new radar controlled automatic emergency braking is worth the $$. It’s like a back up camera on an SUV. If you use it only once, while you have the vehicle, you would be paid back many fold. Now that I have driven a car with the newer gadgets, I wouldn’t buy a new car without them.

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to kick your own a** when the insurance company catches wise to your misadventure.

      • 0 avatar

        Nah I’ve got the supper platinum gold package with unlimited accident forgiveness. The real kicker is that I got that level of protection because I was worried about the wife.

        Sweet gal but accident prone. She backed the dang thing into the metal fence at our place in July 2017 and tore a hole in the fender.

  • avatar

    So the question becomes do all those safety gadgets up front that drive up the cost of minor repairs stop enough accidents on average to make it pay for itself. Average repair bills rose 7.9% but you’d think you’d see a corresponding drop in the accident rate.

    Large property insurers have had some struggles lately. Insurance companies that focus on cars may be better insulated, but insurance in general is going up -not just auto insurance due to repair cost.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure on the insurance companies’ global losses vs. savings. I do know that my USAA auto premium went up 15% this year with the same cars and no accidents or tickets for either my wife or myself. I’ve been with them 45 years and this is the biggest bump up yet.

      • 0 avatar

        2017 was one of the worst years on record and 2015 and 2016 were very bad. Reinsurance appears to be averaging about 15% higher rates and they are just flat out dropping some lines of business. It’s pretty ugly.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s too early to really evaluate.

      When you look at total losses, it’s a function of probability of loss times severity of loss.

      Now, the severity of loss is going to be immediately impacted – usually for the negative.

      The probability of loss? That’s more complicated. That takes time to observe.

      Part of the problem is the question of “who” is typically responsible for loss and “when” it happens. In other words, if 2nd or 3rd owners typically were responsible for more crashes, and they happen around the 70k mile mark, it would take time to observe whether there was an impact – pardon the pun. Maybe first owners don’t get helped by technology the same as the second owner is.

      It could also be that you have a weird selection bias that results. Perhaps you have fewer low dollar incidents, which means the incidents you do have will be higher severity incidents as a result.

      You can really go down a rabbit hole with this stuff, but you don’t really have to — instead, set your premiums, observe what happened over a period of time, and then adjust as necessary. Basically, profitability and reserves provide a cushion against volatility of premiums.

      The fact that auto insurance can reprice every 6 months ends up benefitting insurance companies and consumers alike.

      • 0 avatar

        As far as the article goes, it implies that rates are up because of skyrocketing repair costs though. Which I don’t think the article really proves. It might be part of increasing costs, but my understanding is that other factors are a bigger cause of premium growth.

        As far as probability of loss goes, they (actuaries) have a big enough sample size at this time to make an educated guess on how much many of these systems effect the likelihood of a loss.

        I just don’t think the article is getting to the real scoop here.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s some moving parts in this calculation…. Sure you might prevent some of the low cost fender benders. That doesn’t prevent the more expensive accidents. So it looks like there are now more bigger collisions (there are more as a %, but hopefully not in #). The pessimists among us would say that’s because we’re relying on tech to save us instead of paying attention.

      Insurance companies aren’t going to care… Looking at average cost per repair: “Oh cars are more expensive to fix, raise rates!”… without looking at the data for number of repairs.

  • avatar

    Very low mileage versions of the K900 can be found for in the low 20k range sooooooooo yeah that’s a lot to fix.

    I know a guy who has one and he loves it. Considering he got his used for less then a top trim Civic I get the appeal. All the high end luxury bits minus the badge.

  • avatar

    “Hey, my Kia is KIA!”

  • avatar

    Unlike Ford at least Kia is still making passenger cars. Consumer Reports rates Kia as the most reliable car maker.

    Ford – what a disgrace!

  • avatar

    I thought the whole point of all these safety things were to prevent accidents!? So, why do we have these safety devices?

  • avatar

    I don’t want to hear the damn insurance industry crying. There’s far less injury claims every year, from much safer cars and far less accidents thanks to all sorts of driving aids, traction nannies, etc. and instead of dropping premiums we gotta hear them sniveling about one small thing?

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not so much crying as much as it’s explaining why premiums are up for this particular model. But hey everyone is free to interpret things as they please.

      • 0 avatar

        Uh, premiums jumped 7.9% just last year? Not just on this ultra rare car, but countrywide?

        That’s not my personal “interpretation”. The proliferation of “safety technology” is their lame A$$ excuse, sad song, crying, etc. Call it what you chose, but at least read the whole article.

        But there’s clearly an omission of how much all that “safety tech” saves the insurance industry on the other end, statistically less accidents and far less personal injury payouts.

        • 0 avatar

          it probably saves them nothing
          – people texting
          – people let autopilots drive
          – people lose their driving skills

          Basically, right now people go back in time, totally degrading, losing all sorts of skill. so, insurance companies are right – we have bunch of iPhone users driving around. I talk to people – everywhere same story – new drivers have no idea that tire can be flat, or hout to open the hood, etc

          • 0 avatar

            New drivers have always sucked, and you still don’t have to be a “car guy” especially when you’re a chick. So all these driver’s aids, traction/stability nannies, airbags all around, crumple zones, laminated side-glass, lane departure, auto braking, trailer sway, back up warning/cameras, auto parking, DRLs, roll over protection, etc, etc, or even damn ABS don’t do darn thing to keep us safer and or damage-free, parking-lot dents to death by crash?

            Why even have them?

          • 0 avatar

            “it probably saves them nothing
            – people texting
            – people let autopilots drive
            – people lose their driving skills”

            What stands out here is the word “people”. “People” are the problem. If we get rid of people all problems will be solved, including racism, sexism and etc etc.

            Advent of AI will solve this problem once and for all.

          • 0 avatar

            All the safety devices in the world won’t prevent all impacts. Think of the millions of cars on the road, congestion getting worse, and then you have one soccer mom who gets a facebook notification and causes a 42 pile up. Safety devices that don’t overide control of the car will only work when used properly. The backup cam and sensors on my dad’s F-150 will not stop him from backing into something unless he actually stops. Do they help? You bet, but he’s not an idiot, nor distracted by his phone or screaming kids or music blaring as loud as it can go. (Yes, at least with Ford products, the backup beeper warning overrides the stereo, but my point is the same.)

            Removing humans from the (driving) picture is the answer, but it is not the answer I am looking for. I don’t text and drive, I don’t drive stoned or drunk, and yet many do some or all of these things. I don’t want to give up my privilege of driving because Sally in the Altima next to me just got a Snapchat from OMG CHAD HE IS SO CUTE OMG and proceeds to cause a crash. I fear its coming to that, though. They’ll take away our driving privileges “for our own good” and life will suck forevermore.

          • 0 avatar

            Does safely tech not change much? Or is it Today, our distracted, texting, facebooking A$$ES at the wheel, are so dang dependent on those aids, that if we were all suddenly put into 1960’s and earlier VWs, Falcons, Datsuns, Ramblers, Desotos, big-fin cars, Muscle, pickups, etc, all on bias-ply tires and drum brakes all around, and of course rarely used seatbelts, most of us would perish?

  • avatar

    A friend reports that a minor rear-end bump to his Mercedes diesel caused $15k in engine damage, when the exhaust pipe acted like a 15-foot battering ram against the turbo housing.

    Gotta admit, that’s one hell of an exhaust pipe.

  • avatar

    When I worked in a body shop we dreaded BMW 5 series starting with the E60 body…the front aprons and rails were aluminum, glued and riveted to the steel structure. The front inner structure couldn’t be straightened or squared-up, so a simple little front end shot that led to the inner structure moving at all meant yanking the rail and apron, and hanging new ones. The tubes of blue glue were frightfully costly, the special rivets were costly, and the Celette fixtures had to be rented, so the new parts would fit just right. As I recall the parts were sold by VIN and there was a limitation to how many rails and aprons could be hung on a particular car before the steel firewall was not usable…I seem to recall that two was the limit, so a repeat offender would turn into an automatic total loss. Good times.

  • avatar

    Back in 2009 I hit a deer head on at 70mph with my 2004 Sable SW. That was $5200. in damages.

    I suppose the Subaru eyesite system that has the sensors located up high may be cheaper to fix than other cars when the front end is damaged, but will cost more to replace the windshield.

  • avatar

    Sounds like one of these would be a steal at an insurance auction. Repair the cosmetic damage, ignore the warning lights from the broken sensors, and roll with it.

    That is unless it renders the car undrivable due to automatic braking, etc, of course.

  • avatar

    2000 Lexus GS, minor front corner collision. Replace fender and marker light, paint (not replace) front bumper, replace bumper molding = $3,200CAD. And the headlight still points up and away.

  • avatar

    That’s nothing, % wise vs. total sticker price interms of repair cost. I own a 2012 Suzuki Kizashi, the top Sport model AWD with all the bells and whistles. A small front impact tore the top of the front bumper and bent the radiator slightly. The car could still move and drive fine. No airbags deployed. Only cosmetic damage to bumper and grille.
    Looked like a simple job… but there are NO parts in 2nd hand market and new parts are unbelievable expensive. The body shop said it would cost $5,820 to get it repaired, which my insurance company promptly denied and then totalled the car instead. It had 100K miles and MSRP brand new was $28K (I bought it at 55K miles at a more reasonable $14K 3 years ago) but yes, some cars all it takes is a gentle bump to a fender or bumper, and you end up with a totalled vehicle. (I bought it back and doing the fixing myself, and yes, having a hard time to replace the bumper since there seems to be none that fit my model)

  • avatar

    As others have noted, I would think if these safety systems really work, bodily injury claims would offset the cost of the systems. I’d have to imagine body/medical payouts are more than vehicle repair.

    I have read as well that the garbage interest rate environment for the last 10 years also very much impacts insurance rate. They have expected payouts and then invest in safe investments to cover those losses over time. If 10 years ago they could bank 5% return and now it’s 2.5% that’s gotta be made up somewhere, so open your wallets.

    Don’t give them any ideas but I’m still waiting for auto insurance to pull a health insurance on us somehow. Collusion, unknown/hidden pricing, charging different prices to different people for the same repair. All the health insurance scam tricks that nobody goes to prison for.

  • avatar
    pale ghost

    I read that after years of declining accident rates the trend reversed starting a few years ago. I attribute it to distracted driving. Texting and cell phones.

  • avatar

    It’s expensive to fix even prosaic cars without this stuff. My bestie hit a deer on the 3rd day of ownership of her ’16 VW Jetta. Broke all the plastic on the front of the car, dented the hood, bent the radiator support, punctured the radiator and A/C condenser, and broke sundry plastic bits behind all that. very minor damage to the tip of one fender. $12K to fix it. If it hadn’t been 3 days old it would likely have been totaled she was told. Just a pair of plain-Jane halogen headlights was $1000+. I shudder to think what the fancy-dancy swiveling ones on my GTI would cost to replace.

    Amazing insurance is as cheap as it is. Though it is a whole lot cheaper in Maine than it is in Florida…

  • avatar

    KIA – Killed In Action. $34000 is a death sentence for Kia.

  • avatar

    The swiveling LED headlights on the K900 no doubt add considerably to the repair cost.

    Nevertheless, as the recent purchaser of a low-mileage, near-new example for about half-price, I can affirm that these are great cars available at a great price. Still, I guess I better hope nobody hits me. Yikes!

    BTW, I’ve still got the car my screen name refers to also–Panther love forever. I just think of the K900 as a sort of Korean cousin. The similarities in size and feel are remarkable.

  • avatar

    What I find funny (not really) about the insurance industry is that it lobbies for higher and higher technology and safety (IIHS) while sticking owners of said vehicles with the higher premiums… all while said industry enjoys lower fatality/injury rates.

    • 0 avatar

      When you consider that the basic economic model of an insurance company is to add cost to distributed risk, it makes sense. The costs of fixing/replacing vehicles and property is easily quantifiable. The cost of paying settlements to people and their survivors is, potentially, orders of magnitude larger. Requiring safety gear that protects people is, overall, a very good thing. The bad part is that the cost of replacing all that expensive safety gear as a result of collisions, is borne by everyone who pays their premiums.

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