Thursday, March 15, 2007

Kia Finds Power In Their Surprises

I was looking through a Kia Motors catalog recently and guess what? Their catch phrase “The Power To Surprise” is right on target.
The full Kia line presents just 10 models and includes SUVs, a minivan, sedans, hatchbacks and a new crossover that redefines the word station wagon. There are no pickup trucks. But what the lineup lacks in numbers, it makes up for in style, safety and quality.
The first surprise was discovering that Kia sold its first million vehicles to the U.S. market in just 10 years. That beats Toyota, Mazda, BMW and Mercedes to name a few heavy hitters.
In the fiercely competitive auto market, that’s an amazing accomplishment these days. An automaker does not make that mark on slick marketing. It takes a distinguished product to pull it off.
It must have surprised a lot of Kia competitors last year when the Rio garnered recognition as the “Highest Ranked Sub-Compact in Initial Quality” by J.D. Power and Associates. Suddenly, this young upstart is a force in contention.
Quality is a great starting point for consumer attention. But the Rio has more that buyers like, especially in the sub-compact segment – the safety of six standard airbags; plenty of passenger and cargo space (class leading 92.2 cu.ft. for people and 11.9 cu.ft. for cargo) and satisfying fuel efficiency (29 city/38 highway with the 4-speed automatic)
Then there’s the Sedona minivan. It’s the highest safety-rated minivan of all-time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the government agency which rates the crash safety of all vehicles using a five star system, gave the Sedona the highest five-star safety marks in all four categories that cover frontal and side crashes.
The Sedona also got the nod as “Top Safety Pick” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The list of standard safety features for this seven-passenger people mover is impressive: dual front air bags, front seat-mounted side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, front active headrests, tire pressure monitoring system, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, Electronic Stability Control, Traction Control System, child-friendly lower anchors and tethers.
Another surprise from Kia is the new Rondo. Functionally, one could call it a station wagon. But that description is dropping out of the vernacular these days. It’s a crossover vehicle – meaning that it takes styling and stature from the SUV segment but drives like a car.
The Rondo is big enough to carry seven passengers yet is fuel efficient enough to get up to 29 miles per gallon with the four-cylinder version. It designed to go toe-to-toe with vehicles like the Ford Focus wagon, the Subaru Impreza wagon and the Dodge Caliber.
The Rondo is a surprise late-entry into the 2007 lineup and is aimed to further Kia’s penetration into the U.S. market particularly in the fast-growing crossover segment.
News of Kia’s impressive level of quality, safety and value is growing. By industry standards, they are getting it right and consumers are beginning to take notice.
They’ll get a lot of mileage out of “The Power To Surprise” tagline especially when their surprises are all pleasant ones.

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