Sunday, February 15, 2009

Advice for Kia

News of falling auto sales for Kia in "emerging" markets reminds me of my recent experience with Kia here in the UAE:
Last October, before the crisis really heated up, I priced a brand new Kia Carnival, fully loaded long body version at 90,900 dirhams (at that time about 31,800,000 Korean Won. 1dhs=350krw) I didn't buy it for two reasons. First, the price was near the same for the fully loaded version in Korea BUT it really wasn't fully loaded. It had NO leather seats, NO ABS, No side curtain airbags, NO a/v system...basically...a entry level long-body Carnival in Korea for the same price as one fully loaded. Not only that, but they didn't have it in the color I wanted and I would have to wait 6 months for that. No thanks!!
So, a few months later, while Korea was in the thoes of a 1997IMF-style currency crisis (which we WILL see again this year) and all the Japanese makers were raising their prices due to the strengthening of the Yen against the dirham, I went to re-price the Carnival. I was thinking maybe since the currency was taking a nosedive, they would rethink their extortionistic prices (though i wouldn't buy one without the leather and a/v anyway). What did I find....everything status quo. And, since people here prefer to buy Japanese and German cars, Kia basically removes themselves as a player in the business here by offering an inferior car with inferior options and inferior safety for an inflated price.

My advice to the makers of KIA: If you want people to respect your product then you have to offer your best...especially when you are doing it overseas in competition with people who make better cars than you. Carnival is a fine car if it were offered with all of the options, otherwise, its just not worth it.