MARIDOL is a K-pop fan. Before the pandemic struck, she was a student at the Yonsei University in Korea. Last March 10, three months after the fall semester ended in last year, she came back home. Her plan was to return to school after the summer semester would start but COVID-19 decimated all her plans.
So with nothing clear in sight, she decides to stay and purchase a vehicle which she would use to tutor those wanting to learn Korean. Her choice? A car she loved when she was in Korea. Her purchase was decided and delivered purely online, a strategy that Kia is now going to put more focus on.
According to Kia Philippines President Manny Aligada, Kia’s digital platforms helped the brand keep its awareness levels high. During a virtual roundtable meeting with the motoring media, he said that Kia’s digital assets were responsible for bringing walk-ins to the showroom. Buyers were motivated by deals and product presentations on its Facebook page and Virtual Showroom at kia.com.ph.
Aligada had emphasized the shift to the digital sphere in 2020 not only as a coping strategy but one that was foreseen as a long term strategy given the uncertainty of the pandemic. Pushing its brand online enabled the carmaker to gain a wider audience and tap varied markets.
He stressed that their efforts to go digital would intensify for 2021.
Kia Marketing Franz Decloedt estimates that 10 percent of its sales come from its online selling efforts. The Korean carmaker was one of the first to perform well on this platform. It launched its Stonic purely on digital and its Virtual Showroom came online in October 2020. However, as early as July last year the digital dealership was already planned.
The whole Philippine automotive industry suffered a 40-percent decline in sales as a result of the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kia Philippines sold 2,129 units in 2020 (one of those is Maridol’s Picanto). It is fascinating to note that about 212 units, 10 percent as Decloedt mentioned were sold using online means. And the digital platform continues to do well for the company.
Kia’s virtual showroom includes a Live Stream Showroom done by appointment in Kia Pampanga. It was not the dealership where Maridol bought her car but to have such an online tool shows the brand’s innovation.
In Maridol’s case it was a series of Zoom and Facetime calls to dealer sales agents, looking for the best deal, which included processing by BPI’s Auto Financing. That moved her from Kia San Pablo, to Kia Batangas and finally to Kia Calamba where the deal was sealed.
The Picanto contributed about 4.3 percent to the 2020 total sales. That may not sound like a lot but in the midst of the pandemic that is a solid performance for the compact hatch.
Priced starting at P590,000 it is well-groomed to be a start-up car, for those like Maridol whose only motivation was to graduate from a decade and a half old, hand-me-down sedan.
Reviewing last year’s sales figure for Kia PH, the Soluto comprised 39 percent of the company’s total sales, followed by the K2500 with 17 percent. The Stonic—just launched in the last quarter of the year—sold 200 units in December alone garnering 16 percent of the volume of total deliveries. For 2021, Kia PH will “unbox” (an online term made popular by bloggers) at least two new models.
The start of the media get-together revolved around the changes that the Kia brand will undertake to reflect its new vision, shifting from “Power to Surprise” to “Movement to Inspire” will be mirrored in its new logo.
Decloedt explained that the new logo expressed the brand’s being “dynamic and connected” its position and execution reflecting access and an outlook of service. This is in line with the Kia global brand’s focus on creating an emotional bond with its customers.
Kia PH will also carry out the “My Year, My Kia” program that would help customers acquire Kia cars. Then, in the early second half of 2021, the Kia brand refresh would shift the positioning from “value-for-money” to just simply “valuable”—forging an enduring connection with customers at the same time introducing the new Kia logo. It will also increase its current dealer network of 40 with five more openings and appointments.
To strengthen brand relationships, Kia Philippines has committed to the following: Improved parts availability using reliable partners for direct delivery, with parts availability within seven days; enhanced service quality and lead time with real-time technical support using remote diagnosis system, and; lower cost of ownership.
Kia PH’s chief concedes that the future is not yet set, and expect new challenges coming.
“These new challenges will always be there, but Kia Philippines will remain resilient and strong-willed. After all, our Power to Surprise springs from our drive to serve,” he concluded.
In the meantime, Maridol, and her new Picanto has been driving back and forth Laguna as she tutors children and adults to learn Korean.