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Hey, Are You Talking to Me?

Kia Motors America Inc. goes to market not only with a new cross/utility vehicle, the '07 Rondo, but with playfully coined ad terms called “Rondoisms.”

Kia Motors America Inc. goes to market not only with a new cross/utility vehicle, the '07 Rondo, but with playfully coined ad terms called “Rondoisms.”

Accordingly, touted Rondo features include huge cabinosity, precision steerology, safety all-overness and giddyuppiness.

“Our ad agency had way too much fun with the terminology,” quips Ian Beavis, KMA's vice president-marketing.

Kia sells the Rondo in Asia as the Carens, but Beavis says that name tested poorly with U.S. consumers. Doing better was Rondo, a musical term meaning going forward.

The addition of a CUV fills out Kia's lineup, which now stands at eight models, says Len Hunt, KMA's chief operating officer. “People often say they never realized we had so many.”

Kia sales have grown every year for the 13 years the South Korean auto maker has sold vehicles in the U.S. Last year, Kia's 650 U.S. dealers delivered 294,302 vehicles, a 6.7% increase over 2005 but just short of a company goal.

“We were shooting for 300,000, but we're happy as are our dealers,” Hunt says.

Hunt speaks of “moving to the next level,” which means higher sales, as well as cultivating “pride and passion” among vehicle owners. Do that, he says, and “you unleash customers as brand advocates.”

The Rondo will compete against the likes of the Toyota Matrix, Pontiac Vibe, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevrolet HHR and Mazda5, says Steve Kosowski, KMA's manager of long-range planning.

Kia will pitch the Rondo particularly to “young singles, young couples starting out and young couples with young children,” Beavis says.

Appealing to the youth set (although Kia expects to sell a few Rondos to empty nesters and such) means keeping trim lines simple (an LX and EX) and the price attractive ($16,396-$20,195, plus a $600 destination charge), Kosowski says.

In fulfilling a “strong request” from dealers who want to pitch low price, Hunt says about 5% of Rondo's vehicle mix will be base models without power windows or air conditioning.

Explains Beavis: “We're going out to young people without a whole lot of money.”

Meanwhile, KMA is developing programs to boost dealer profitability.

“We want to give dealers a compelling business proposition,” says Hunt. “They are telling us, ‘We need to make more money.’”

A downside of Kia improving its vehicle quality is that dealerships are doing fewer repairs, he says. “Dealers say they need new service programs.”

Among those in the works: a loyalty program that encourage Kia owners to get vehicle maintenance work and quick oil changes at dealerships rather than “places like Jiffy Lube,” Hunt says.

TAGS: Dealers Retail
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