Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kia Soul Rolls Out Across America

Here's something for you marketing majors to think about: your client develops a product geared toward a younger segment of the population -- what demographers call "Generation Y" consumers -- only there is one problem. That product happens to appeal to people far beyond one particular age group.

Scion learned a few years back, soon after their boxy xB hit the street, that it is a car prized as much by baby boomers as it is by the young crowd. While parent Toyota Motor Corporation has viewed this development as somewhat unsettling, one of its competitors isn't too concerned about who buys their product.

Also geared to appeal to that same "Generation Y" crowd, the newly released Kia Soul is working hard on presenting a vehicle that young drivers will really want. Priced from $13,995, the five-passenger Soul is roomy, stylish, and offers a lot of the features young drivers seek: a chrome-accented grille, clear lens auto-off headlamps, solar glass, black door handles and side mirrors, body-colored front and rear fascias with black inserts, black bodyside molding, rear wiper/washer, variable intermittent windshield wipers and 15-inch steel wheels.

Moreover, the Kia Soul is expected to be customized like no other Kia before it. When the car made its debut at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show last November (I was there for its introduction), Kia made sure that it had a dozen different samples of the Soul on display. Each Soul featured had its own unique color schematic, special trim, some with hood treatment, unique wheels, etc. The thrust of Kia's marketing introduction for the Soul was to show that it could be styled in a myriad number of ways.

Built on an all-new front-wheel drive platform, Soul features a high roofline and wide, distinctive stance. With a wheelbase of 100.4 inches, length of 161.6 inches, width of 70.3 inches and height of 63.4 inches, the five-passenger Soul offers a comfortably roomy interior.

Available in Soul, Soul+, Soul! (exclaim) and Soul sport, pricing for the versatile five door begins at $13,300 (plus $695 destination) for the base model, while Soul+ starts at $14,950 and tops out at $17,100 with all options. Soul! begins at $16,950 and peaks at $17,900 with all available options, and Soul sport starts at $16,950 and tops out at $18,600 with all options included.

Kia wanted to bring an appealing sub-$20,000 vehicle to the market and they seem to have accomplished that task with the Soul.

Kia made sure that the Soul came standard with all of the features young drivers are demanding in their cars today including an AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system outfitted with SIRIUS Satellite Radio capabilities, USB and auxiliary input jacks that offer full iPod(R) and MP3 controllability when used with the optional iPod accessory cable.

Other standard interior features include: air conditioning, a tilt steering column, power door locks and windows, an external temperature display, a dual-level glove box, 12-volt power outlet, rear window defroster and a dome light with delay out. Each Soul comes with black cloth seats and a versatile 60/40 split-folding rear seat.

When I mentioned to Kia representatives that the Soul was appealing to a middle-aged man like myself, they didn't seem to be concerned at all. I'm not likely to add hood trim nor would I go for fancy wheels, but I sure do like the price and the interior room.

by Matthew C. Keegan

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