Speaking in Melbourne this week, Kia Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith confessed Kia’s model names were largely unknown to the average car buyer, particularly the Cerato small car that competes in the most popular segment in the country against the likes of the Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla.
“We have a huge problem that no one knows what Cerato is,” Meredith said. “People need to know what a Cerato is [in order to] put it on their shopping list.”
Meredith agreed when asked by CarAdvice whether the South Korean brand’s naming methodology could be improved with alphanumeric badges rather than city-inspired names.
“I make no bones about it, I would like Picanto [light car] to be K1, Rio to be K2, Cerato to K3, Sportage to be KV3 and Sorento to be KV5. I would be the happiest man in the world, I think that would help dramatically with brand perception in Kia Australia.”
Kia uses that naming structure in markets such as China, but has never seriously considered it for Australia in the past, a matter Meredith is hoping to change in the medium to long term.
“I have presented that to Seoul, and it does happen in some market, it’s something that I think it would be great for the brand, I really do.”
The name change across the brand's numerous models, which is far from confirmed, would have to take place with the introduction of new models rather than a renaming of existing ones, a point that Meredith is pushing with the decision makers in Seoul.
“I am going to keep on pushing it, because I think it’s going to be very strong for the brand, make it a stronger position in Australia. Simpler for everyone in Australia [to understand].”
Nonetheless, the one model that it’s unlikely to affect is the popular Carnival, which remains the most recognised of Kia’s offerings.
“The research we’ve got shows us that Carnival is incredibly strong brand name then they really dissipate after that to be honest.”
Kia’s well-packaged Cerato small car and popular Sorento SUV models appear to be the most problematic, considering their similar-sounding names, but it’s perhaps the Kia Pro_cee’d GT hot-hatch that takes car model designations to a new level.
Rival brand Hyundai has a rather confusing naming strategy, whereby cars that are designed for European market are labeled with an ‘i’ (i20, i30, ix35, i40) while cars for North American consumers come with standard model names (Accent, Elantra, Santa Fe, Sonata). Australia sits in the middle of these two markets are hence gets a collection of both.
Should Kia ditch its current naming structure and adapt the ‘K’ style?