Qual­ity in the spot­light

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

THE days of dol­lar deals in Kia show­rooms are on the way out. The push is to put the cars in the spot­light and the price-first ap­proach is head­ing to the edge of the pic­ture.

Kia now be­lieves it needs to turn its cars into he­roes, not just fo­cus on lur­ing buy­ers with sweet deals that have to be heav­ily sub­sidised and re­newed each month.

“The truth is that most Aus­tralians don’t know much about Kia,” says new Kia Mo­tors chief ex­ec­u­tive Damien Mered­ith.

“We’ve stopped all re­tail ad­ver­tis­ing on tele­vi­sion and we’re fo­cus­ing on prod­uct.

“The value will al­ways be there. We will still be com­pet­ing ... but I think people have to un­der­stand that we make and en­gi­neer great prod­ucts.

“We need to get the mes­sage out about the qual­ity of the prod­uct and the de­sign, and us­ing Graeme Gam­bold to de­velop the cars for Aus­tralia.”

This is fa­mil­iar stuff at Cars­guide, as we have long lauded the ex­per­tise and Aus­tralia-first fo­cus of Gam­bold. The chas­sis-tun­ing guru’s ef­forts have helped Kia step out of the con­sid­er­able shadow cast by “big brother” Hyundai, as it also em­ployed solid en­gi­neer­ing and good­look­ing body­work.

Mered­ith says con­cen­trat­ing on the bot­tom line in show­rooms, in­stead of the ris­ing strengths of the cars, has been coun­ter­pro­duc­tive for Kia.

“I don’t think we’ve com­mu­ni­cated it cor­rectly. It’s very dif­fi­cult to get that mes­sage through when you’re on sale all the time. I think we have to change our di­rec­tion,” he says.

“We have in­creased the mar­ket­ing spend and it will be di­rected to­wards prod­uct.

“What we want to do is get Aus­tralians to un­der­stand more about what Kia does with its prod­uct, its en­gi­neer­ing and its de­sign.”

Kia is un­der­per­form­ing in Aus­tralia this year, at least com­pared with Hyundai, de­spite a 0.2 per cent in­crease in sales through the first half of 2014 in an over­all mar­ket that’s down 2.4 per cent.

The ob­jec­tive is to deliver at least 33,000 cars for the year, which will still leave Kia at less than 4 per cent of over­all new­car sales.

“By end of the year we’d like to be at 35,000, but 33,000-plus is the re­al­ity. We don’t want to be go­ing up one month and down the next. We want it nice and con­sis­tent.”

Mered­ith says the fo­cus for this month is on the Pro­ceed and Sportage and, al­though he is be­ing cagey, the new push is likely to switch to the Cerato in Au­gust.

“We’re look­ing for sus­tained growth over time. And you can’t do that just by sell­ing on price.”

Op­tima: Kia broke ground with the sedan’s Euro­pean styling

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