"Consumers were saying, `Who needs a new car company?' so we spent a lot of time developing positioning of good, affordable, quality transportation and consumers took the hook," says Mr. Macedo.
Mr. Macedo joined the U.S. import upstart of the South Korean carmaker in 1993.
In early 1994, Kia started selling the little-known brand's Sephia small car in the West. Its Sportage sport-utility vehicle arrived in 1995, and the rollout has marched into the South and East.
Kia's U.S. sales rose from 24,740 in 1995 to 55,325 last year with the two models. The launch formula developed by Mr. Macedo with agency Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco, remains the staple selling point for Kia: A teaser TV spot hits two weeks before Kia enters a new market showing a monster terrorizing a city. Pre-launch radio spots report sightings of the monster, called Gorgo, at Kia dealerships. Newspaper ads break on specific launch days-always a Thursday to drive weekend traffic.
The launch is followed by humorous TV spots combining brand and product by spoofing Kia's actual 200,000-mile endurance drives, plus tests with rental fleets and college students. About 90% of Kia's media mix is TV. Kia's tag since '94: "It's about time everyone had a well-made car."
Kia spent nearly $39 million in measured media in 1997 vs. $26.2 million in '96, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Mr. Macedo expects '98 spending to double.
The timing of the small Sportage sport ute "was almost perfect," says Mr. Macedo. "There was demand at the small end and we got the jump on the market."
This year, Kia is opening in the Midwest. Its slow-but-steady drive should be done this summer, despite its parent's economic woes at home. Kia expects to have 500 dealers by year's end, up from 350 at the start of '98.
Kia wants to reach 100,000 in U.S. sales this year. A Sportage two-door convertible model is expected to arrive this summer.