Kia Motors America Inc. and its dealers will launch a $100 million ad campaign this week that invites shoppers to compare four of its models with Toyotas.
The advertising budget is 44 percent higher than last year's, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The "Dare to Compare" campaign features the Amanti, Optima, Sedona and Sorento models, and includes dealer incentives to stock demonstrator vehicles.
It is part of Kia's bid to bump unit sales to 275,000 in the United States this year. Kia sold 237,471 units in 2003.
The 2004 Spectra also is expected to move the needle, dealers say.
"We have three goals," says Monroe Lee, dealer council chairman and owner of five Kia AutoSport stores in Florida and Georgia. "Improve sales, improve customer satisfaction and improve the value of the franchise."
The new advertising theme is designed to raise awareness of the Kia brand as inexpensive but of high quality.
Advertising will focus on safety, which Kia's research has shown is strongly linked to an impression of quality.
"No one else in the $10,000 to $30,000 (vehicle price range) is promoting safety," says Peter Butterfield, Kia's CEO.
Dealer marketing groups and exclusive Kia dealerships also are expected to give the brand a boost, Butterfield said. The number of dealer marketing groups has increased to 36 - representing 70 percent of Kia's sales volume - since the groups were started a year and a half ago.
A $300-per-vehicle incentive to create stand-alone stores also should build sales. When the incentive began last April, only 40 of Kia's 630 dealerships were stand-alones, he said. But now 312 stores representing 65 percent of Kia's sales volume are signed up to become stand-alones.
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