Kia Canada’s High-Octane Marketing Strategy

For Ted Lancaster, a high-performance luxury sports sedan should do more than just get the driver and passengers to their destination quickly; it should elevate their state-of-mind during the journey. That is one of the goals of Kia’s new 2018 Stinger luxury sports sedan, which will be available in North America later this year. “This vehicle will have the get-up-and-go performance to get you excited, without sacrificing comfort,” says Lancaster, who is Kia Canada’s vice president and chief operating officer. “You won’t feel exhausted after a long drive with this vehicle, but you will have enjoyed the journey immensely.” But all of this design and engineering expertise needs to be presented effectively to create sales, and that is where Lancaster steps in.

The all-wheel-drive, five-passenger fastback will provide Kia with a strong entry in the luxury segment, which is dominated by high-performance vehicles with jack-rabbit accelerations and suspensions designed more for racing than touring. The Stinger’s extended wheelbase, Lancaster says, is designed to create a spacious cabin interior and smooth ride. “I think it comes down to the strong design and how they’ve really stretched the wheels as wide, forward and back, as much as possible,” Lancaster explains. “It really does create a much smoother ride, and you don’t sacrifice cabin space. You can take three or four passengers in this vehicle and really enjoy it.” He also points out that the car’s wide hatchback contributes to better-than-expected cargo capacity.

Peter Schreyer, Kia Motors’ chief design officer, oversaw the Stinger’s design. And as the head of Kia’s Vehicle Test and High-Performance Development department, Albert Biermann supervised the development of the vehicle’s ride and handling. To refine its design and engineering, Kia tested the Stinger on the famous Nurburgring racing circuit in Germany.

To get all of that information in front of the public eye, Lancaster is supervising the Stinger’s launch in Canada. The first task has been to build excitement around its introduction, starting with the vehicle making the rounds of the major North American auto shows. Its Canadian debut was in February at the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto after its premiere in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Additional stops were at auto shows in Montreal, Vancouver, and Edmonton.

“We are being very strategic with this launch,” Lancaster explains. “It can help elevate the brand. A lot of time is being spent ensuring that we, as an organization in Canada, properly launch, prepare, and execute the overall marketing plan for the Stinger. Conceptually, it’s going to focus on the design and performance and really highlighting the overall enjoyment of the ride.” To introduce and market the Stinger, Lancaster’s sales, marketing, logistics, and distributing teams are examining a multitude of details.

“All of them have to report to me on their progress with regard to getting this vehicle to market,” he says. “It takes a lot of time to prepare for a vehicle like this. We are working every day to make sure we get out to the marketplace and resonate with consumers as much as possible.”

Kia is using social media extensively. The company is preparing teaser videos for the Canadian market and promoting the Stinger’s introduction on Facebook and Instagram. “We’re focused on leveraging the Stinger to build as much excitement with as many people as we can,” Lancaster says. The Stinger’s introduction in Toronto was shown on Facebook Live as it was happening. Other marketing possibilities include doing a mall tour with the Stinger and establishing a dedicated consumer microsite for the vehicle.

Another possible marketing promotion being considered is sending a Stinger to a circuit of dealers in the major metropolitan areas of Canada for one week each. During that week, each dealer could show the Stinger to select customers for potential preorders before it was transported to the next dealer on the circuit.

This type of promotion ties in with Lancaster’s experience in automotive sales. He spent roughly five years on the sales floor before working his way up through management positions. “I’ve always had an attachment to the retail side throughout my career,” he explains. “If you’re going to be an executive in this industry, having a strong understanding of retail operations is an asset.” Additionally, before going into automotive sales, Lancaster studied law.

During his more than twenty years in the automotive industry, Lancaster has worked at Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, and Nissan. He was also the director of national development at the Dilawri Group of Companies. “I’ve worked in pretty much every department,” Lancaster says. “I’ve had exposure to a variety of agencies and how they operate. I’m a student of the marketplace in Canada.” He is also continually learning about changes in consumer preferences, habits, and trends. “This allows me to work with our team here to provide the best possible marketing initiatives to build the brand and grow the business,” Lancaster says.

Lancaster is heavily involved with marketing the Stinger and other products—such as Kia’s hybrid crossover, the Niro—as well as with press events and interviews about new models and the brand. Last year, Kia scored highest in the J.D. Power 2016 US Initial Quality Study, with the lowest number of problems reported by consumers. “That was fantastic, a great accomplishment for our brand,” Lancaster says. “That type of quality engineering is what is going into the Stinger.”

Last year, Kia grew 5.5 percent in Canada and is up 3 percent in retail sales early in 2017. “We’re heading in the right direction,” Lancaster says. “We are a brand that is on the move, but we do have a gap between the quality of the product and the impression of our brand in Canada—but we’re steadily elevating that to meet the brand’s quality. Whenever you have a macro launch of something, you can change the brand impression. You can leave a strong ripple in the marketplace, so you want to be as effective as you possibly can. The Stinger is a great opportunity to attract a lot of new consumers to the Kia brand, and we’re ready to deliver once we get their attention.”