- Less than 30 percent of Kia's U.S. dealers will sell the high-end 2015 Kia K900.
- The top-of-the-line K900 is due to arrive at dealerships in March.
- A new training process aims to teach Kia dealer personnel how to impress fussy luxury car owners.
CHICAGO — Kia dealers and their employees, some who have spent decades successfully selling mass-market econoboxes, are learning how to sell a $60,000 luxury sedan to a Mercedes-Benz owner.
The 2015 K900, Kia's first luxury car to be sold in the U.S., will arrive at selected dealerships in March. But finding the car may be difficult: Less than 30 percent of Kia's dealers will sell the car.
"The (training) experience is designed to shift the culture, prepare authorized K900 dealers to welcome customers who may have never visited a Kia dealership and bring with them expectations set by other luxury brands," Kia Motors America spokesman Scott McKee told Edmunds.
"That cultural change will have a ripple effect through our network, elevating the experience for all Kia customers," he said in an e-mail.
Kia has posted partial K900 pricing on its Web site. The 2015 Kia K900 with a V8 engine is priced at $60,400, including a $900 destination charge, according to Kia Motors America.
The full-size, rear-wheel-drive sedan targets the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 and the Lexus LS 460.
Getting most of Kia's dealers to buy into the luxury car business has been a challenge. The K900's high sticker price, plus the cost of required training and a showroom display kit that combined is estimated to cost each dealer about $30,000, has attracted less than 30 percent of its 765 dealers.
The response by dealers is not a surprise, said Michael Sprague, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Kia Motors America. Most of the luxury car market is on the West and East coasts, in the South, and in the Chicago area.
"There's not a lot in the middle part of the country," he said.
But Sprague is optimistic.
"We are doing it in phases," he said during an interview earlier this month. "In Phase One we have about 220 dealers that have signed up to sell the vehicle. There was a business case behind it in terms of investing in training, investing in tools, investing in a showroom kit that we have put together to highlight the car. It is a significant investment for the dealer to make."
The showroom kit includes dark wood inlays that are cut into the showroom floor, where only one car, the K900, will be positioned. The kit provides displays highlighting the car's exterior colors and trims, and an iPad-like device that offers a video showing some of the car's features.
A key element of the training is targeted at the sales staff, Sprague said.
"The car is filled with technology, and we really want people to understand it and be able to sell it," he said. "It is also our first rear-wheel-drive vehicle, first V8 sedan. So there are a lot of things just from a technical standpoint we need people to know and understand in order to communicate the features and benefits of the vehicle."
Sprague expects more Kia dealers eventually will sign up.
"We want to make sure that we get it launched right, build the awareness for it, build the excitement for it," Sprague said. "Then I think we will see more (dealers) raise their hand."
Edmunds says: Luxury car owners who are pampered by their dealers will expect the same treatment from Kia.