As a luxury brand, Kia has a long way to travel

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As a luxury brand, Kia has a long way to travel

Kia Motors is out to change its image among Americans as a low-priced value brand with the recently launched $66,000 luxury K900 sedan, but analysts say the company should expect an uphill climb.

Kia has been asking U.S. consumers to “challenge the luxury you know” since its February Super Bowl ad featuring Laurence Fishburne, who reprised his role in the futuristic “The Matrix” movie trilogy.

“What we hope this will do is send a signal to consumers that we are a different brand from what they thought we were a few years ago,” said Michael Sprague, Kia’s U.S. executive vice president for sales and marketing.

Sprague spoke at an Automotive Press Association event in Detroit on Thursday.

Kia’s next-most expensive model is the Cadenza sedan at about $36,000. Sprague said Kia positioned the K900 between the BMW 5-Series, which costs just over $50,000, and the BMW 7-Series at about $75,000.

Jack Nerad, executive market analyst for industry consultant Kelley Blue Book, said he is not sure the K900 makes as much sense in the U.S. market as the South Korean version of the car, called the K9, does in its corporate home.

“It’s a good luxury car,” said Nerad, who noted that at the K900’s price, “people are buying as much for the prestige of the brand as they are for the actual hardware, and I think that’s where Kia will have some difficulty versus Mercedes-Benz or BMW or Audi.”

The K900 has yet to be introduced throughout the United States and sales totaled 365 in March and April.


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