MIAMI — Kia is considering changing the names of all its models, just as it did with the redesigned Spectra that has been renamed Forte.
The Korean brand is off to a good start this year, but it has a challenge, too. The company says the median age of its U.S. buyers is 52, and it wants to attract much younger customers.
One problem: Executives at Kia Motors America say the brand's nameplates do not carry an image of being hip and fun to drive.
To attract younger buyers, Kia will aim more marketing dollars at interactive messaging and social networking, said Michael Sprague, Kia's vice president of marketing. But name changes also are under consideration.
"We want to leave the old baggage behind," Sprague said. "A lot of people don't know who we are anyway. So why not come out with new names like Forte?"
In the first two months of the year, Kia captured 3.3 percent of the U.S. market, up from 2.1 percent for all of 2008. Sales were flat in February in an overall market down 41.4 percent.
Much of the success has come from cash incentives of up to $5,000 to move 2008 models. But Tom Loveless, vice president of sales, said the brand can keep up the momentum.
The Soul, a competitor to the Scion xB and Nissan Cube, went on sale in February. The Forte arrives this summer to replace the Spectra, Kia's best-seller. And a redesigned Sorento crossover debuts in late fall.
Kia also is beefing up dealer co-op advertising spending. If dealers advertise, they now are reimbursed all of the 2 percent ad fee they pay when ordering a vehicle. Previously, dealers received a flat fee credit ranging from $200 to $350.