Kia Motors America, which has begun moving toward a portfolio of design-forward vehicles, has also waded into a realm of sports marketing usually associated with luxury marques. The Korean automaker, whose U.S. headquarters is in Irvine, Calif., has signed with Michelle Wie and the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA).
Wie, a Korean American, will be the official golf ambassador and spokesperson for Kia Motors. The automaker has also signed on as title sponsor of the "Kia Classic Presented by J Golf," the first tour stop in the U.S. of the LPGA. The match, on March 22 in San Diego, Calif., will be carried on the Golf Channel.
Kia says Wie will use a Kia-branded golf bag for the first time next week for the LPGA 2010 season opener in Thailand.
Kia Motors America is also the "Official Automotive Partner of the NBA." A company spokesperson says Wie -- who is also sponsored by Nike -- will not be appearing in ads. He adds that Kia will activate at the San Diego match with hospitality suites, fleets and vehicle displays, among other things.
The automaker sold 22,123 new vehicles last month, about the same as in January of last year. Last month Kia also launched its first U.S.-built vehicle, the Sorento CUV. The company has been touting it with new advertising that launched on the Super Bowl. The company says the vehicle, which it is targeting at moms, was also the best-selling vehicle for the month with 7,398 units sold.
In December, Kia sold 21,048 vehicles -- a 43.7% increase over the same month last year. Last year Kia sold 300,063 units -- a 9.8% increase over 2008, per the company.