Several local dealerships are building new larger facilities, having outgrown their current showrooms and lot space.
Chris Bernius - CleanMPG
- Feb 27, 2012
Nick LiBretto, of Revolution Kia in Lindenhurst, NY, braving gusty winds and a snow squall to stand proudly alongside my sister's new 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid.
With Guinness record-shattering capabilities
, a few basic and intermediate techniques should be all the new Optima needs to slash my sister's fuel costs by half.
Over the past year, Kia has been setting records with huge increases in sales, and their newest models are accounting for the largest portion of sales. Here's a brief listing of the last few months:
Kia January Sales up 27.8%
Kia Dec. 2011 sales up 42.5%
Kia Nov. 2011 Sales up 39.1%
Kia Oct. 2011 Sales Up 20.8%
Kia September Sales Up 18.4%
The sales volume and market share increases are good news, because these new cars and crossovers are at or near the head of their class in EPA fuel economy ratings. The record sales are largely conquest sales, as they must be when an automaker's gain in market share is more than incremental. The increases are coming from people who trade out of various makes and models and into a new Kia. And this happens only when buyers decide that a new Kia vehicle is the one best suited to their needs, and it represents the best value for their money. With this in mind, let's take Kia's market success and examine it on a more local level.
Dealers expanding and building to accommodate increased showroom traffic
Within the last several months, I noticed that two dealerships on Long Island have plans in place to construct new facilities. With the unprecedented growth of the Kia brand, dealerships are outgrowing their properties, and listed below are two that had to plan for larger showrooms to accommodate the increased traffic. One recently opened their new showroom at the start of this year, and the other has its new building currently under construction, with plans to have it open for business by the end of the year.
One of those dealerships is Karp Kia, in Rockville Centre, NY. The new facility opened for business at the beginning of 2012, and their bright new showroom welcomes customers who stop in to see the new fuel efficient Kia models.
Clockwise from top left - The exterior of the brand new building, still awaiting the sign and graphic treatment; The new showroom displaying Kia's latest and best;
A poster explaining and highlighting the benefits of GDI (gasoline direct injection); A few of the many new Kia vehicles in stock.
Over the last couple of days, I spoke with a sales rep and also with Dan Karp, who is a member of the Karp family. The Karp Automotive group is a family-owned business selling several brands of cars for more than fifty years, and Kia is their newest addition. And it is a welcome addition, with Karp Kia earning the "New York Kia Dealer of the Year" award for customer satisfaction at dealerrater.com, and I found that Karp Automotive has an A+ rating from the BBB. Here are some notes I gathered:
- Sales at the dealership are increasing substantially. Because this may be Long Island's newest Kia retailer, year over year sales comparisons can't directly compare, as Kia vehicles are only now enjoying their own dedicated showroom and staff. Since the opening of the new dealership, and the recent spike in fuel costs, showroom traffic is way up.
- The three best sellers, in order: Soul, Optima, and Sorento.
- About 80% of showroom visitors have a positive opinion of Kia vehicles. The other 20% are said to be curious about the Kia brand, and during the sales presentation, they are pleasantly surprised by the vehicles, the value for the money, and the great warranty.
- Interest in the Optima hybrid is building, and they are waiting on deliveries of more 2012s. The Optima is drawing a lot of attention, and they are seeing equal interest in the 2.4L LX/EX and the 2.0T EX/SX models.
Another expanding dealership is Revolution Kia in Lindenhurst, NY. Their new facility is under construction, and the new building can't be completed soon enough. The current showroom has floor space for only five vehicles. The increased interest in Kia automobiles has stretched them to the limit, and the move a couple of miles west to the new showroom property is highly anticipated by the staff.
A brief conversation with the sales manager at the dealership provided some insight into Kia's growing presence in this fiercely competitive local market.
- Sales at the dealership are up 20% year over year.
- The three best sellers, in order: Soul, Optima, and Sorento close behind.
- About 60% of showroom visitors have a positive opinion of Kia vehicles. The other 40%, assumed to be unsure or unaware of the brand, are drawn by the excellent warranty coverage.
- Their service department displays a banner stating their service facility has been rated #1 in the area, and the focus of the entire team at the dealer is to meet and exceed customer expectations.
- The dealer's owner, Joseph Catalanotto, owns two other Kia dealerships as well, with the other two locations being Medford and East Meadow, NY. All three dealers are reporting significant sales increases.
Observations shared by both dealers:
And closer to home - two Kia newbies take to the road in their new vehicles
- The Soul is proving to be very popular with buyers who like the taller roofline and seat height, which allows easy entry and exit without ducking or crouching, while offering an excellent view of the road ahead. The cargo space provided by the boxy styling is also noted as a feature buyers appreciate.
- The recent advertising for the Optima has been very effective, as well. People who were unaware of the Optima line are coming in to see the Dream Car for Real Life.
- The majority of people visiting Kia dealerships know of Kia, and at least some of its vehicle lineup, and have a positive perception of Kia vehicles based on personal experience or word of mouth from others. The remainder are either not familiar with Kia or are cautious about what they perceive to be a "new" car company (even though Kia is only "new to them"). In either case, the Kia new vehicle warranty coverage goes a long way toward addressing any doubt, and it remains a major selling point. The fact that the majority of shoppers have a positive perception of the name suggests that Kia's brand transformation is well underway, with more than half of current shoppers well aware of the Kia brand, and seeing Kia's lineup of vehicles as "highest value" rather than "cheapest car".
While reading about the increased sales volume and market share, it is important to remember that these achievements take place one vehicle sale at a time. The purchase of a new car is often quoted as the "second largest investment" someone makes, second only to the purchase of real estate.
With broadband internet making new vehicle research so simple, people are using this powerful tool to their advantage to shop for their new car before ever visiting a dealership. The online presence of Kia, from their website to various social networks, makes the brand and the vehicle lineup easily accessible for research and comparison. The combination of excellent fuel economy, IIHS Best Pick safety ratings, and very aggressive equipment/pricing/value strategies position the brand for success in today's world of high fuel costs, tight budgets, increasing road congestion, and smaller parking spaces.
Over the last five months, two of these new Kia sales were "close to home", with my sister taking delivery of a Kia Optima Hybrid and one of my brothers selecting the Kia Sedona over the other minivan competition.
Kia Sedona selected as best value for family transportation.
Last September, my brother and his wife began shopping for a minivan. They and their two young children had outgrown their Subaru Impreza wagon, since there will soon be a need for a third car seat. With two car seats occupying the rear seat, the little wagon was a two (adult) seater, and so there was no chance of car pooling or shuttling any other passengers. Deciding on a minivan or perhaps large crossover, they considered almost a dozen different options. The last one they drove was the Kia Sedona. Both agreed its handling was the most car-like, it was quieter than the others, the warranty coverage was the longest, and the overall cost was by far the lowest. The MSRP was lower than the competition. The dealer was more willing to negotiate on the transaction price. And the finance rate offered through KMFC was the lowest. The result: They took delivery of their new 2011 Kia Sedona EX van, seen here.
2011 Kia Sedona EX minivan and the precious cargo entrusted to it.
When I saw my brother within the last month, he said that the Sedona was by far the best new car purchase they ever made. It has performed flawlessly, the fuel economy is about the same as the Subaru, and it continues to impress them with family-friendly features that are missing in some of the other vans. Why did he mention this? Because the lease on my sister's Toyota convertible would be ending soon, and I mentioned a few Kia models that may be worthy of her consideration. My brother volunteered his endorsement. "I'm sold on Kia", he said. "After a few months with the van, I would tell anyone thinking about a Kia to go and buy one. It's been great."
Kia Optima Hybrid selected as best value for midsize hybrid with "all the toys".
My sister was faced with either turning in her leased Toyota or arranging to finance the residual. It's a convertible, and there are very few front drive convertibles on the market that are a suitable replacement for her current car. Logically, she started to figure how often she lowered the top on the car, rather than drive "top up" as an enclosed car. She likes the option of open air driving, but not enough to justify "buying" the rest of a car that is now four years old. Perhaps a large sunroof would fill the bill? I mentioned that Hyundai and Kia have a rather nice panoramic sunroof that might offer the open-air experience along with additional features and improved fuel economy.
Over the last couple of months, she has been noticing the increasing prices at the pump. With her annual driving approaching 15,000 miles a year, she concluded that her next car should be a hybrid. Having owned two Hyundai vehicles in the past, and being very happy with them, she went and test drove a Hyundai Sonata hybrid. The car she would choose would need to have the premium package in order to get the panoramic glass roof, and also the heated seats, navigation, and better audio that she enjoyed in the Toyota. There were exactly two 2012 Sonata hybrids (w/premium package) in our area - one white and one black. Her last two cars were white - she wanted a change. She didn't want a black car because it shows dings/pits in the paint and is tough to keep looking clean. The dealer where she test drove the car tried their best to write up the deal on the black car she test drove, but she didn't want the car in that color. They couldn't promise future arrivals for any particular color. The lease rate quoted was a bit higher than what she was paying on the Toyota, and that is to be expected because the MSRP on the Sonata hybrid is a little higher than what the Toyota MSRP was when she leased that car.
Knowing she would have to make a decision within the month, I gathered some information on the Kia Optima hybrid. The Optima hybrid also has a single "everything included" option package. But the Optima hybrid's premium package includes additional features not available in the Sonata hybrid. The front seats are heated and also air-cooled. There is a four way power passenger seat, power folding outside mirrors, an auto-dimming interior mirror, and even two-position driver seat memory. It has a heated steering wheel, too. The MSRP is in line with its Sonata cousin, but it has some extra unique features that set it apart. Hyundai's Sonata hybrid offers Blue Link and a Lifetime Battery Guarantee, so the men and women at your local Hyundai dealer also have their unique selling points to share with prospects.
About a week ago, we headed to the Kia dealership where a quick check of inventory on the dealer's website showed a 2012 Optima hybrid with the Premium Technology Package in stock. Satin Metal (dark silver), with a neutral "sand" leather interior with black accents. I explained the differences in content between the two cars, and I recommended that she go and drive the Kia Optima hybrid to get some first-hand experience with the unique features so she can decide which car is a better fit for her needs. During the long test drive, she certainly put the Optima Hybrid through its paces. I would imagine that video taken from a helicopter would have resembled one of those California freeway car chases. And when we returned to the dealer, the mpg display was 20% higher than the best easy-driving mpg number she could wring from the Toyota. She concluded that the fuel economy potential was definitely there. And in addition, the driver seat memory, the power lumbar and power recline, the cooled seats, and heated steering wheel sealed the deal. The lease rate on the Optima was significantly lower than what she was quoted for the Sonata hybrid. She signed the papers after the test drive.
And a few days ago, we braved gale force winds and a few brief bands of heavy wet snow to take delivery of the new Kia.
2012 Kia Optima Hybrid
Sales rep Nick LiBretto on the lot at Revolution Kia, ready to present the vehicle to its new owner.
The sales rep drives the Optima SX, and he warned my sister that she should be prepared to be the center of attention. The Optima is turning heads, even in an area whose roads are congested with leased European land rockets of every configuration imaginable.
As fuel prices rise, I suspect that the admirers will start asking, "What kind of mileage does it get?"
And the answer may raise some eyebrows. Driving my sister out to the Kia dealership after returning her previous car, she was asking when I would be able to stop by with my air pump to "add a few pounds" to the tires.
Her target is 40+mpg combined city/highway, and I think she'll meet and beat that target. Her Toyota was rated 18/26 on the EPA and her mpg display was hovering around 25 in mixed driving - on winter tires - so with a little coaching I think 40+ is a good starting goal.
As of this morning, my sister headed to work for her first commute in her new 2012 Kia Optima Hybrid. The fuel consumption graphic was in the 40mpg range for most of the highway drive, and the average mpg is around 33. And that's not bad considering that this number includes all the idling during the new car prep at the dealer, idling during the new car orientation with the sales staff, and a brutal 40mph headwind and snow squall encountered during the light-to-light trip home from the dealer. Over the next day or two, I will adjust the tire pressures and then watch the new Optima hybrid zoom right past the EPA estimates and up into the mpg stratosphere.
My sister mentioned before that the people at the office loved the new Optima hybrid and were amazed by the styling, comfort, fuel efficiency and the "fully loaded" level of equipment for the price. We can only wonder how many of these people, who see the car in the lot at the office every day, will add Kia to their shopping list when it comes time to trade their current car.
There is quite a bit of media coverage detailing Kia's market share increases, sales records, and survey scores (customer satisfaction, initial and long term quality, etc.) And the article above takes the big numbers down to a local level, showing personal experiences of two "new-to-Kia" owners, and the expansion of the local dealer network to meet demand for the sales and servicing of the growing brand.
Kia is indeed growing rapidly. And that growth is occurring one sale at a time, as people see new Kia vehicles on the road or in parking lots, and then search online or head to their local dealer to learn more. Kia's recent advertising slogan is "The Power to Surprise". And that is certainly a power they are using to its full extent.
Footnote: Walking up to a Kia Optima Hybrid in Satin Metal was a strange homecoming for me, as I spent two weeks of my life in one of these cars. And I still marvel at how well the Optima performed throughout the journey. It seems like only yesterday that I drove through four states in under two minutes, entirely in EV mode. It was fun and it deserves a replay.