Kia made a bold move trying to muscle their way into the luxury market. They even used Morpheus from the Matrix to "free your mind" from the "prison of traditional luxury." Most car-buyers would rather not "wake up" and kept buying their German sedans. Kia has sold a measly 1,050 K900s.
Kyle Stock from Businessweek gives a breakdown on why the K900 has been a dud so far. The primary reason is that buyers in this market want to stick with the brands that actually have some status when it comes to luxury cars. Kia tried to make the K900 a cheaper version of the S-class and 7-series, but most buyers that couldn't afford the uber-sedans would rather just buy/lease the mid-size offerings. Stock also brings up the second problem, which is that the K900 just wasn't that good. Multiple publications said the car had a ton of features for the money, but actual driving experience was lacking.
All of the above points are spot-on, but Mr. Stock leaves out a few other factors. The smaller issue is the name, as we have covered the alphanumeric naming trend doesn't seem to be working for those who are gunning for the Germans but not quite there. Jason has mentioned before that the K900 sounds like some kind of robotic dog, as this is meaningless for those folks dropping $50-$60k on a luxury sedan.
The other issue is that the K900 is almost indistinguishable from the much less expensive Cadenza, which is a pretty decent luxury car for the money. Of course the K900 is bigger, offers more features, and is rear-wheel drive. But how many Kia buyers actually care?
What is often not mentioned is that selling a $60,000 luxury car is not the same as selling a $18,000 compact. I've spoken with some Kia dealers that bemoan the fact that only managers can sell the K900. I don't think this is a bad thing, you can't have your typical floor salesperson engage with a customer they are not used to. However, it's the overall approach that far too many Kia dealers take that I predict will torpedo this car. As I have mentioned before, luxury car buyers expect a certain "experience" when it comes to purchasing. And far too many Kia dealers still have old habits when they were the brand that catered to credit-challenged customers who couldn't afford anything else.
Hyundai at least had the clarity to know that its dealers couldn't handle an Equus transaction so it created the concierge program. Given the dismal sales numbers we are already seeing pretty massive discounts on new K900s. The good news, is in a few years this may be a great luxury bargain in the pre-owned market.
Of course this begs the question, if Kia can't sell a $60,000 luxury car, how is Volkswagen going to sell a $70,000 one?
If you have a question, a tip, or something you would like to to share about car-buying, drop me a line at AutomatchConsulting@gmail.com and be sure to include your Kinja handle.