It can be risky tinkering with success. The auto industry is full of stories about one-time hits that failed to connect with buyers after a big redesign – think the second-generation of the boxy Scion xB. So excuse the folks at Kia for being as nervous as they are boastful as they roll out the next generation of the quirky Soul hatchback as the New York International Auto Show’s media preview gets underway.
True, it got a bit of a bit from its equally funky ads starring a bunch of hip-hop hamsters, but there’s no question the original Kia Soul connected with buyers in a big way, becoming one of the Korean carmaker’s biggest hits and helping it score a series of annual sales records since launching in 2009.
“When the first Soul was introduced in 2009, everyone at Kia believed we had a hit on our hands, but we didn’t realize how big that hit was going to be,” said Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing and communications at Kia Motors America. “The Soul moved the needle significantly from a sales and marketing perspective.”
What’s particularly significant about the outgoing Kia Soul is how it has maintained momentum in a niche that is normally filled with what industry analysts call “18-month wonders,” vehicles that come out blazing then all but vanish from the sales charts.