Kia Campaign to Emphasize New Sorento is Made in AmericaBy Michelle Krebs October 29, 2009
Surging Kia Motors America is planning to get more than auto assembly out of its new plant in West Point, Georgia, that goes on stream next month to build the 2011 Sorento crossover: the West Point plant will feature prominently in Kia's pre-launch ad campaign to emphasize the Sorento is made in America.
With the sourcing of all manner of consumer goods to low-cost countries being an increasingly persistent burr under many American consumers' saddles, "Built in American has turned into a positive," said Michael Sprague, KMA's vice president of marketing.
Acknowledging the outgoing Sorento did not peg the meter in third-party quality metrics such as those of Consumer Reports, Sprague told AutoObserver that improving the overall perception of Kia quality "is probably still the biggest challenge we have as a brand. The perception still lags the reality by three to five years."
Kia thinks that with many U.S. consumers weary of low-quality foreign-made products, highlighting the fact the Sorento is built in the U.S. will improve the perception of the Sorento as a high-quality product.
Kia won't overdo the point, Sprague said, but emphasized, "We're going to let people know it's built in America."
Kia kicks off its Sorento pre-launch campaign this week. Its ads will be featured in various television programming, including National Basketball Association games as Kia has an ongoing marketing relationship with the NBA.
Made in America Means Something
There was a time when American-made vehicles were the consistent butt of jokes. But vastly improved quality from domestic automakers, along with transplant-automaker plants earning longstanding reputations for quality assembly, has elevated the prestige of U.S.-sourced auto assembly, Sprague said. He said with all the past year's downcast headlines in the auto industry - including a raft of plant closings - Kia also wants to highlight the good-news aspect of inaugurating a new auto assembly plant.
The Sorento's pre-launch ads will be more about brand-building, Sprague said, but "come January, we'll be laser-focused on the Sorento."
Launching Into A Crowd
The 2011 Sorento is the first product to be built at the West Point site and goes on sale in January. Sprague said the new crossover's launch will be Kia's overarching new-product event for the year - this past year, Kia has had two important launches with the Soul hatchback and the Forte, the replacement for its best-seller, the Spectra.
Apart from the made-in-America emphasis, Kia hopes to make a mark in the jam-packed midsize crossover segment by promoting the 2011 Sorento's class-leading fuel economy, Sprague said at a media event in Atlanta. He said one of the Sorento's chief competitors, General Motors Corp.'s 2010 Equinox, already has claimed the top spot in the class with its 32 miles per gallon on the highway. But Federal Trade Commission rules permit the top three players to lay claim to the "class-leading" boast, and the Sorento's 28-29 highway mpg will put it in the top three.
Sprague said the new Sorento also will have "tweener" attraction because the base 4-cylinder, front-wheel-drive model will start at less than $20,000, giving fits to players in the compact crossover market such as the Toyota RAV4 (beginning at $21,500) and Honda's CR-V (starting at $21,545) - but with the availability of occasional-use third-row seats and an optional V-6, the Sorento also will mix it up with midsize crossovers such as the Ford Edge and Mazda CX-7, among others. -- Bill Visnic, Senior Contributing Editor
Photo by Kia
The 2011 Kia Sorento will boast it is made in America.