The Kia Niro is a hybrid but the company acts like it wants to keep that fact a secret. Why is the company so afraid to tell people about the one feature that makes the Kia Niro so unique? “We could go down that path,” says Steve Carter, Kia’s marketing director in Canada when asked about promoting the Kia Niro as a hybrid, “but we’ve chosen to go in another direction. If you look at where customer interests are going, they’re certainly moving out of the car segments and into the crossover segments, and in particular compacts and subcompacts.”
“We’re not afraid to say it’s a hybrid,” Carter adds. “Rather, it has everything to do with the avoiding the negative connotations associated with hybrids in a market that’s still averse to them.” The market is averse to the idea of a hybrid? Actually, Carter may have a point. A recent survey found that 60% of Americans are blissfully unaware that electric cars even exist.
New technology is scary to people. You and I might not think of hybrids and plug-in hybrids as new but we are Gas2 readers. We are the enlightened few who stand at the cutting edge of change. Lots of our peers still haven’t a clue about the transportation revolution waiting just around the corner.
Americans have this curious split personality about cars. We want big cars but surveys consistently show that fuel economy is an important factor in deciding which vehicle to buy. People make $50,000 buying decisions based on which pickup truck has the highest EPA highway fuel economy. Who cares if it only gets half that many miles in typical around town driving? If it ever hits the superslab on a warm day when no air conditioning is needed and makes the ever-so-slightly downhill run from Phoenix to LA driving at 55 mph all the way, it could get that kind of gas mileage and that’s all that matters.
For Super Bowl Sunday, Kia has dropped a chunk of change on a commercial to introduce the Kia Niro. The spot is one minute long but the fact that the car is a hybrid is only revealed during a two second clip near the end. That’s when the camera zooms in on the “eco/hybrid” logo on the back. The focus is on the fact that the car is a compact crossover — precisely the sweet spot of the American car market at the present time. The ad makes a point of highlighting how eco-friendly the Kia Niro is without explaining the very thing that makes it so fuel efficient.
Kia Canada’s corporate communications manager, John Adzija, sums it up nicely. He says the Niro should appeal to a wide range of customers; great fuel economy is just the icing on the cake. “The hybrid is a bonus,” he says. “It’s not something we’re scared of, but we’re not focusing on it. It’s fun, it’s versatile and, by the way, it gets great fuel economy and it happens to be a hybrid.”
Attitudes change slowly. There was a time when mainstream drivers were skeptical about the automatic transmission, air conditioning, and cruise control. Apparently the word “hybrid” is still novel enough to give some buyers an anxiety attack. Wait till they find out that self driving cars are only a few years away!
Source: AutoGuide Canada