I have been given compensation for this post by Kia Motors. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
Each year, I venture to a car show. I’d like to say the car show (meaning the Washington Auto Show) but it all depends on my schedule. Sometimes I spend time at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit or the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) in New York City. I’ve also been to Raleigh and Dallas but I’m thrilled to live in near a city where my hometown auto show is something to be proud of.
For the Washington Auto Show this year, I had a chance to check out every single auto manufacturer on the Media Preview Day. It was lovely to wander through all of the new models without dealing with the throngs of people.
But it wasn’t until I went back on Saturday with the general public that I really felt the excitement of what the car show brings and what a brand like Kia brings to that show.
Near the main entrance of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center was the booth for the Kia Ride & Drive, welcoming curious drivers and passengers to take the Kia lineup for a spin around a DC block. As with most Ride & Drives, the sign up was pretty easy. A few key pieces of information entered into an iPad, a quick check for a valid driver’s license, and a walk down the hall and out the back doors where the Kia staff was waiting to show you to one or more of the models parked outside.
Imagine my delight when I saw a familiar face! Cara, a product specialist with Kia, stepped out of the Kia Stinger with a test driver and we quickly recognized each other from the Kia Ride & Drive event at Six Flags last April!
We exchanged hugs while the driver looked on probably wondering who the heck I was. I quickly drew him into the conversation and asked him what he thought about the Kia Stinger. I would guess he was 20-something and I expected an extremely enthusiastic reaction but instead discovered he’s a mild-mannered guy who prefers the luxury of a Bentley. Still, he was impressed with the Kia and admitted he would put it on his short list when looking for his next car.
While I was looking at the entire lineup, I accosted a few other drivers as they exited their vehicles. Like the lovely middle-aged couple I overheard talking about the Kia Cadenza (that was not in the Kia Ride & Drive lineup at the show). I interrupted their conversation to tell them all about my trip to Middleburg, VA where I got to spend time driving the Cadenza all over horse country.
They had been checking out the Kia Soul and I asked them their thoughts on that as well. They were surprised by the Kia Soul and even more surprised when I told them about the wide range of buyers for this cute, boxy little vehicle (that comes in Turbo and EV).
Then I decided I might look like the weird lady who randomly strikes up conversations about Kia with strangers (even though I assured them I was writing a story about Kia) so I headed inside to the show floor to get a closer look at what was happening at the Kia booth.
You know what was happening? The KIA STINGER was happening! Of course, I’ve had an up close, personal look at the Kia Stinger when I headed to California last November. When you work in the media, you forget that what’s common knowledge to you is still brand new and exciting to the public. And that’s what I saw.
In the middle of a busy and crowded Saturday afternoon at the Washington Auto Show, there were always people gathered around the Kia Stinger “on stage” at the Kia booth and plenty of cameras in use. And I might have played a part in that too.
This year, I was asked to serve as a VIP Tour Guide during the show. My role was to take small groups of auto enthusiasts throughout the show and fill them in on some insider details for each manufacturer. I did a meet and greet with all of my tour participants and asked them what they’d most like to see. The most enthusiastic people were the kids that joined my tour that were mostly interested in the fastest, coolest cars.
“There’s a car downstairs that I can’t wait to show you and I bet it will totally surprise you,” I told them. And inevitably we’d end up at the Stinger where I bragged about driving it out in California and testing out its ability to go from 0-60 in 4.7 seconds. Then the dads got really interested too.
But it wasn’t all about Stinger. It was about the Kia Soul and the dancing hamster. It was about the Kia Sedona (Kia makes a minivan?). It was about the Kia Cadenza, Kia Optima, Kia Sorento, Kia Sportage, Kia Forte, and the little Kia Rio.
I saved Kia Rio for last because on one of my tour groups I asked some of the participants to share what car they drove. One gentleman raised his hand and sheepishly said he was “driving a Kia just for right now.” There’s no shame in driving a Kia! I reassured him. And when he told me he was driving the Rio, I assured him that Kia Rio GT is making fans of hot hatchbacks turn their heads!
What I really got out of casually observing the general public checking out Kia and reminding them of their success story is that people are still discovering Kia and finding the surprise and delight I’ve known about for years!