New MD Signals an Image Change for the Kia Brand

Kia Motors UK’s new managing director has signalled an end to the pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap adventure that saw the South Korean brand become the fastest growing car company in the country.

It was a strategy which worked well when the Koreans took over the UK sales operation from importer MCL at the end of 2002.

Last year sales started to decline, however, and this year has seen sales nosedive 27 per cent as Paul Philpott and his new management team re-align Kia’s image.

“We have got to be more confident in our products and the sales and marketing message that we put out,” said Philpott, who has been in the Kia hot seat for six months.
“The brand grew quickly off the back of cheap vehicles which were well put together. But since the end of 2005 we have seen sales decline around 40 per cent as our price advantage has been gradually closed down.”

The brand then turned to fleet but it never really established an infrastructure to support long term growth in this sector. Dealers were becoming more unprofitable and residuals were being damaged.

Philpott added: “Kia was also sending out the wrong message in terms of value. We were offering £1 deposits or £1,000 cashback. It was a value message but people had no idea what our cars were like.”

It was a strategy that also disillusioned Kia’s 140-strong dealer network. In last year’s dealer attitude survey, Kia finished 30th out of 32 brands.

Philpott said: “To get back on track in both the retail and fleet markets, growth has to be based on customer service and aftersales development in partnership with the dealer network.

“We want to be in the top 10 retail players and we want to drive forward with bright modern dealerships and dealers who want to grow and invest in the brand.

“We can’t do it in one leap, the product itself is evolving through improved quality, value and exciting design. We have to be more confident in the product and give out a more confident message through our marketing and advertising.”

He added: “The quality of our cars is now every bit as good as the Japanese makes, but some of our dealers are not aligned with our new way of doing business.

“Not all of them will be with us in two year time but we hope many will want to make the necessary investments to help grow the brand.”
Published : 22/08/07 Author : Melanie Carter

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