“People wear a brand, so your brand must have integrity.” – Len Hunt, Kia Motors America Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.
Len Hunt came from the Volkswagen Group to lead South Korean automaker Kia to the promised land, and he brings with him a wealth of knowledge about how consumers in the world’s largest and most important market think, feel, and act. After years spent working to improve the images of Audi and Volkswagen in North America, Hunt realizes that for Kia to achieve success, it must climb what he calls the “brand ladder.” The first step is to win consumer confidence. Confidence will lend the product integrity, fueling pride of ownership, customer loyalty, and ultimately passion for the brand.
Kia began ascending Hunt’s “brand ladder” when it gave every model sold in North America a five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a ten-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and five years of roadside assistance to instill confidence in the durability of its cars and trucks. Then it began redesigning each model with contemporary styling, comfortable and appealing interiors, and quality construction. This, combined with low sticker prices that virtually guarantee value, has provided Kia with product integrity. Now, the next step is to make sure Kia buyers feel pride of ownership in their choice.
Completely redesigned, the 2006 Kia Sedona minivan is the first of several new products in the pipeline that should polish the company’s image in North America once and for all. The original Sedona was a terrific value and received impressive crash-test scores, two things most important to families looking for daily transportation and enough to make the minivan one of Kia’s top-selling models despite its dated styling, somewhat underpowered V6 and rather portly curb weight. The all-new 2006 Sedona continues as a great value and is expected to receive top crash-test scores, but is now larger, more powerful, lighter, and more fuel efficient. It’s also a stylish vehicle – as far as minivans go.
Kia identifies three key competitors for the new 2006 Sedona, saying that the Honda Odyssey is the aspirational choice in the segment, the Toyota Sienna possesses the highest quality, and the Dodge Grand Caravan is the mainstream best-seller. Kia’s goal was to create a blend of all three that would rise to the top of the class. We spent a day in northern San Diego County driving the 2006 Kia Sedona to find out what works and what needs work with this new minivan. We pushed its buttons, pulled out its seats, rode in every row, and even carved a canyon at twice the posted speed limit. With few exceptions, Kia has created a terrific family-mobile, and if you’re shopping for one of these incredibly useful machines, you must test-drive the new 2006 Kia Sedona.