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Kia Betting Big on Motor Sports

Maker sees motor sports, basketball, golf as ways to shift its econobox image.

by on Mar.10, 2011

Kia has had some relatively good luck since launching its motor sports effort two years ago.

Kia and motorsports? The idea might have seemed ludicrous just a few years ago considering the Korean carmaker’s econobox image.  But as it prepared to launch of new products, such as the all-new Optima, the maker took a bet that that tearing up the track might be a way to grab the attention of consumers that barely knew Kia even existed.

Launched in 2009, the so-far successful effort seems to be having a significant impact on Kia’s brand perception, company officials claim.

When Kia decided to launch a major racing program, in 2009, it had never been part of any motorsports.

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“This is a company that had never gone racing anywhere in the world,” noted Russell Smith of Kinetic Motorsports, the Atlanta-based racing team Kia sought out to help build a motorsports racing team.

Given the company’s history and lack of experience, he was puzzled and a bit skeptical when he was first approached by Kia’s representatives, Smith added.  But after speaking to Kia officials, he decided the company was serious and also understood the risks since it could wind up competing with companies such as BMW and Honda with decades of experience in motorsports.