When you invest in the people, they will invest in you. Kia is fully invested in all of us.
This is what we came away with, or at least I did, after a three day immersion into the brand itself. We got to meet key people in the company, discuss its growth over the past 20 years as well as its outlook for the future, and more importantly the details they focus on for us. Because that’s what they, like all successful companies should, have been doing.
They focused on the consumer. They took their strange caterpillar of a company with not much quality or style and they wrapped it in a cocoon of creativity, diversity and the burning desire not to make the car that was easy to make, but the car that everyone will love. Any business that puts a newly dedicated focus to their product and their brand image to suit the customer instead of themselves will become a success on an unprecedented level.
20 years post-cocoon, this butterfly landed in San Diego with a group of Bloggers, Podcasters, Influencers and the like all hand picked after years of meet and greets, sponsored events, etc. This group, we happy few (about 60 people), were handpicked not just for our social reach, but our honesty. Not a single one of us takes any shit, especially from brands. If you invite us to an event of this scale, you better know that each one of us brings a “Michellin Star” level of scrutiny. That being said, we aren’t snot-nosed either, we’re every day people and we like to have fun.
This group? This was a perfectly balanced group of fun loving creative people who pay attention to the brands we work with, and aren’t afraid to say “you’re doing it wrong”. Because we have the most important thing at heart, our readers and our listeners. The Kia team knew this, and took on the challenge of bringing us all together to see the past, present and future of their company.
It started with “rock star” treatment, to match the Hard Rock Hotel in which we stayed. We all traveled light, with a custom luggage piece they sent to us just for the event. After landing in San Diego, a private car shuttled us to the hotel where our rooms were already waiting for us. And the rooms….damn. Not the “play baseball in the shower” kind of crazy suites, but damn good. After bumbling around the hospitality suite for a few hours (which included a game room, food, drinks, and a big screen tv hooked up to a Harmon/Kardon surround sound system) we migrated downstairs where petty-cabs took us to an amazing restaurant where we dined in style, after lounging in their upstairs, half-outdoor bar. I could go on, but I wouldn’t want you to think it was one big party.
They had certainly picked the right location. The weather in San Diego was perfect every single day, especially perfect for walking around the city and getting a feel for the event as a whole. In fact, there was a considerable amount of down-time compared to most conferences that try to pack your schedule to the brim for every day you are there. This was more than likely on purpose, because for as much as we had certainly traveled from far and wide to the event, we needed to be reminded of home. Because that’s where having one of these cars really counts.
On Thursday, they gave us the whole cake. Got us all in-tune with the brand itself, where it came from, what it represents and where its going. While you may see the evidence of other brands putting effort into safety, design, comfort, style and technology, nothing is more evident than this: they are mediocre in comparison to Kia. Need numbers to convince you? No problem.
In the 90’s, J.D. Power and Associates ranked them DEAD LAST in quality behind companies that don’t even exist any more. In 2016? First. Top of the list. Which is quite a feat considering that never in the history of this, the most revered quality list in all of motoring, has a non-luxury brand topped the list.
The highlight of my Kia experience is three fold. Not only did I come away with a better focus and understanding of the brand I’m working with, but a glimpse into the future. While I’m almost constantly impressed with the new styling for the Sedona mini-van (which you absolutely should check out if you’re still “anti-mini-van”) I’m most taken aback by a car that hasn’t been released yet.
Pictured below: The Niro. A hybrid utility vehicle, or as they like to say HUV and its one of a kind. I thought it was the first, until a friend of mine pointed out that there is a hybrid version of the Ford SUV line. While that may be true, and Ford has beat them to the punch, they are not nearly as successful and reliable as the Niro will be. Kia’s hybrid system is nearly second to none and its light-years ahead of what Ford calls “Eco friendly”.
But having a vehicle like that, that drives well, can go off-road and handle rough situations while also carrying everything you need AND is a hybrid? I’ll take two.
The truth is I would have two of everything in their line. Not because they sponsor me, not because they treated me to San Diego. It’s because I’ve gotten to truly see the depth of not only the quality of the cars, but the quality of the company. Anyone will tell you that the lineup they have now is magnificent and they are truly breaking free of what they used to be. Kia’s are no longer cheap beaters. They are no longer buy one get one free Sephia’s and Sportage’s with plastic bodies. They pulled themselves up by the bootstraps, invested heavily, and now have the best cars on the market.
“Volkswagon” may translate to “People’s Car”, but the evidence shows: The car for the people is a Kia.