Kia's Russell Wager Named Automotive Marketer Of The Year

2023 was truly a transformative year for Kia America. 

December sales of 60,275 units capped the best-ever fourth quarter for the fast-growing automaker and wrapped the greatest annual performance in company history. 

Kia's 2023 total of 782,451 units was up 13% year-over-year and 12% over the previous record set in 2021. In addition, the brand set an all-time record with 725,817 units sold through Kia dealers nationwide.

The automaker’s innovative electric vehicles continued to be the focus along with its rugged SUVs. 

“We believe in the power of education and awareness to drive positive change," says Russell Wager, Kia America's vice president of marketing. Kia aims to inspire a global movement toward a more sustainable future, he adds.



The brand truly practices what it preaches when it comes to the environment, which is reflected in its creative and inspiring advertising. The latest example: Kia plans to use recycled plastic from a 55-ton haul recently reclaimed from the Pacific Ocean in its new EV models. 

The automaker says it remains steadfast in its commitment to a sustainable planet and the well-being of future generations. 

That includes launching the automotive industry’s first mainstream 3-row, all-electric SUV: the Kia EV9.

The automaker plans to accelerate its growth trajectory in 2024 with a combination of six all-new and significantly redesigned products scheduled to arrive in showrooms.

For these reasons, Wager has been selected as MediaPost’s 2023 Automotive Marketer of the Year. He will receive the honor March 27 during a Q&A with MediaPost Automotive Editor Tanya Gazdik at the MediaPost Marketing: Automotive conference during the New York International Auto Show at Javits Center. 

Kia’s brand advertising is emotive and works seamlessly with its retail promotion, says Ian Beavis, chief strategy officer for consultancy AMCI, and a juror for the Marketing: Automotive awards.

"Kia's marketing over the last several years, and in particular in the last 12 months, has been laser-focused on building brand demand through well-thought-out, high-quality engagement at every touchpoint,” Beavis says. “They continue to leverage every possible aspect of their NBA sponsorship. The work in electrification has produced outstanding results and in 2023 the brand, despite product shortages, set another record.”

Kia has moved from a budget brand to premium, says Scotty Reiss, editor and founder of A Girls Guide To Cars, and a juror for the Marketing: Automotive awards.

“(It’s) probably one of the hardest needles to move, especially in a tough industry,” Reiss says. “However, by focusing on pillar values rather than competitive advantages and by meeting customers in their happy place, Kia has been able to permeate perception and drive new customers to the brand.”

The result is an uptick in sales, a more affluent buyer, and price integrity that is at the top of the industry, she adds.

Next story loading loading..