The other night I was having dinner with Artur Martins, who has been the Vice President marketing Kia Motors Europe for two months now. He’s a young manager (41 years old) and has experience with Alfa Romeo, Seat, Toyota, and Volkswagen (his last job before coming to Kia).

After he had announced the news of the 3 new models scheduled for arrival in Europe by 2015 (the new Soul is arriving in April) and Kia’s goal of reaching 400.000 units sold (60 thousand more than in 2013)  and the 6 new models scheduled to arrive between 2016 and 2018 (two every year), he used the “magic” word premium.

Today, all of the mainstream automakers can’t seem to talk about anything else. There doesn’t seem to be not even one that doesn’t want to associate their brand strategy or the launch of a new model with the concept of premium.

At that point I stopped him: “Don’t tell me that Kia wants to become a premium brand, as well”. His response was immediate and decisive:   “Absolutely not. I was referring to how our dealerships will be redesigned. Our brand will remain a mass-market brand.” And then he added, “You don’t decide to become premium from one day to the next”.

In spite of these statements, it would seem that Hyundai’s “cousins” want to try. The European arrival of the Genesis, a large sedan challenging German premium brands BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, is an example of this strategy:  “My goal,” explains Martins, “is to make the brand more youthful and sporty. Certainly not premium …”.  And at the same time, “make it clear that in terms of quality, we are no longer the same old Kia”.

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