Kia is in the midst of a product blitz in the U.S., with 85% of its lineup refreshed or even new in the last 22 months.
The company, which has experienced 15 years in a row of market growth in the U.S., is continuing the pace this year with three new vehicles, and new in-vehicle entertainment and communications technology. Kia is also focusing on social media and mobile efforts, per VP/Marketing Michael Sprague, who made a stopover in New York last week en route to the Irvine, Calif. headquarters.
Sprague says the company -- whose sales grew 9.8% last year because of the Soul, Forte and Forte coupe vehicles -- has also expanded its geographic footprint, doing well with Soul in urban and suburban markets and among style-conscious and more affluent customers.
"This year we are asking how we take the brand to the next level," he said. The automaker will have introduced three vehicles this year, including the 2011 Sorento crossover, which went on sale early this year; an all-new version of Sportage; and an all-new Optima. Sorento, per Sprague, has been Kia's No. 1 seller this year -- with more than 9,000 sold through March, ending Kia's best-ever quarter.
"Digital and mobile media will be a big focus this year," he said, noting that 39% of users of Cars.com accessed mobile devices from dealership lots. "Since one in two phones today are smartphones, our biggest challenge, at least in this area, is how to communicate with consumers on mobile platforms." The company is also the first-ever auto advertiser on magazine portal Zinio, and is marketing on iPad.
Kia is preparing a social media promotion for Soul that launches July 5. Central to the effort is a platform that connects Facebook and YouTube, so the automaker doesn't have to create different elements for each platform.
The single-channel, social media platform -- via thisMoment -- ties together sites like Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube, the brand's own site and the iPhone in real-time. User-generated submissions can be uploaded directly to the channel or pulled from a user's existing social media library, and can be moderated by the brand.
Sprague said part of the push has included sponsorship of the LGPA tournament this year in San Diego -- where Kia had, among other things, 50 vehicles available to players. The automaker is also sponsoring the World Cup and is in its third year of a National Basketball Association partnership.