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When Kia Motors America launches its 1999 model advertising nationally in mid-February, it will at first tease the effort in a key, final market in its long rollout: Detroit.

Kia's ads have compared the brand's vehicles to Toyota or Honda, but this time there's a spot that takes on the domestics. One new commercial shows two women, a blonde driving a Sportage and brunette in a Chevrolet Suburban, going to unusual lengths to win the last mall parking spot.

"This is the first time we included a domestic car company," said Fred Goldberg, president-CEO of agency Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco.

The importer will retain the humorous approach it has used since entering the U.S. in 1994.

"The ads continue a very successful strategy," said Dick Macedo, exec VP-marketing and sales for Kia.

The national media schedule is mostly cable TV, but includes CBS, he said; no print advertising is planned.

The brand's commercials have generally tried to portray five key characteristics: humility, honesty, humor, humanity and hard-working, Mr. Goldberg said.

"We've been faithful to these five things," he said.


The new effort comes in the wake of Hyundai Motor Co.'s acquisition of Kia's South Korean parent, Kia Motors Corp. The deal is expected to be finalized in March. Ford Motor Co. sold its 9% stake in Kia after the Hyundai bid was accepted in December.

Executives of both U.S.-based operations said the two brands will stay separate.


"Kia will maintain its strong, distinct brand identity," said B.M. Ahn, who became president-CEO of Kia Motors America on Jan. 4, from a position with Hyundai in Europe. "The Kia and Hyundai brands will be separate chimneys in North America."

Kia spent $33.1 million in measured media in the first half of 1998, nearly as much as the $39 million it spent in all 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Mr. Macedo declined to reveal the 1999 budget.

Mr. Macedo said Kia's next all-new U.S. vehicles arrive in 2000 -- the Sedona minivan; a subcompact car, which he said is unnamed as yet but may be called

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