OP_ED: KIA Taking Major Risks with STINGER Launch Rollout

The 2018 Kia Stinger is amazingly cool in the flesh.  Low, wide and longer than any KIA you’ve ever imagined.  It is shaping up to be a real Audi A7 rival, but with pricing that starts in the low 30s for the cheapest models.  Closer in pricing are the Audi A5 Sportback and BMW 4 series GranCoupe — both of which kick off their pricing near where the Stinger tops out around $50k.

We’re all for this new sporty KIA.  The initial drive reviews are coming back amazingly positive, and there is real buzz as the first cars arrive at dealerships this week.  The machine is officially the fastest KIA ever: 4.8s to 60 and a potent 167MPH top speed too.  Right from the factory, in rear or AWD.

Pre-production Stinger GT AWD

But is KIA taking some risks with this, one of their first high-performance vehicle launches?  Allow me to explain my worries.

1.) CONCEPT OVERLOAD:   KIA has made their SEMA concept Stingers quite prominent in media releases.  The car featured here is the sexy Stinger GT Federation that was a hit in Vegas and now gobbling up flashbulbs in Los Angeles.   It wears custom paint, custom wheels, suspension, brakes, exterior finishes and surely much more that is definitely not coming as standard to owners.

—->>> This creates confusion in the marketplace about what Stinger is actually the hottest production model.  It also makes the amazing (truly!) design of the Stinger GT AWD look pretty tame by comparison.

We get the rationale of building enthusiast awareness through fast, special tuner models.  But this is tricky at launch — you have to manage expections pretty aggressively and label all Concepts or Customs as such.  To make crystal clear this is not a car you can buy.

Stinger Drifting Video

2.) PERFORMANCE PROMISES: Second worry?  Also stems from pre-sale promotional activity.  At SEMA this year, Kia let punters go for a drifty, smokey drive around an autocross track.  Driven fully sideways the whole time by professional Formula Drift aces.  These drift cars, unlike the SEMA concepts, appear to be full production models.  But they are not.  They are modified to remove their electronic stability control programs completely.  Kia has a disclaimer on some of the marketing from the drift event that clarifies that these Stingers are not available for sale.

—>>>> The problem with drifting a near-production car is the expectation this puts in owners minds.  How will the production models electronic safety nets compare?  Full ESC is likely on at all times, despite the smokey antics in the social media ads.

Kia Stinger is likely to be a big hit in 2018 as shoppers abandon the dull 3 series in droves.  We really hope that the real-deal showroom model is not a letdown after such a hype-filly journey over 2017.  There are solid reasons other performance brands have not followed the Stinger’s promotional tracks — and they all come down to being realistic with consumers.  Any hint of bait/switch will be a big problem for the Kia Stinger and the brand’s sport mission.



2017 KIA Stinger GT Federation Concept