By on July 13, 2010

With Kia’s first US plant pumping out hot-selling new Sorentos, the Korean brand has been desperate to stake its claim to the transplant patriotism that has helped the Japanese automakers rise to dominance in the US market. In this latest ad for the new Sorento, Kia leaves the viewer with no room to doubt where the Sorento is made… and it’s already the second ad to feature Kia’s new West Point, GA factory. So, how does this all play back home in Korea? Hit the jump for the answer…

The old saying “build ’em where you sell ’em” started out as a production-planning motto, stemming from calculations about currency, production costs and shipping costs. Now, thanks to the recent politicization of the car industry, a transplant factory is nothing short of a brilliant marketing tool. In the mass market, where foreign-ness doesn’t hold the cachet it does in the luxury space, the fact that a brand employs Americans can not be ignored. After all, if Ford’s recent momentum can be attributed to its not receiving a bailout, auto brands must remain mindful of their macroeconomic impacts. The more brands like Kia tout their American-ness, the less justification import buyers have for going back to Detroit.

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15 Comments on ““Build Them Where You Sell Them” Becomes “Sell Them Where You Build Them”...”

  • avatar

    Well, it can work the opposite… not sure if it is true, but people tried to buy the very same Honda models that were made in Japan as opposed to some built in the US because the quality is perceived as better.

    It might be apples and oranges, but my 2005 Mazda 3 (Japan) is superior in driving, technology, noise etc. to my 2007 Mazda 6 (Michigan, unionized ford factory)

    I know for sure VW factories spit out different quality products (Wolfsburg being the worst after Belgium) of the same model and you want a Czeck or Slovakian or a Mosel built vehicle if you have a choice.

    In the end it doesn’t really matter, all the parts come from all over the world anyway. It is just some patriotism for sale. Or when did you care where your TV or PC was built as long as it was cheap?

    • 0 avatar
      Facebook User


      Though I never could tell the crap from more crap – the Chevys built in Mexico verses the ones built in Texas with Texas built truck owners claiming better quality.

      It would be interesting to know the exact parts content distribution from each nation for the car “built in the usa” I suspect only backyard hotrods can really claim this anymore.

    • 0 avatar

      A smaller Mazda 3 would be superior in driving. Technology, I don’t think is any different on either. Noise… depends on several factors.

  • avatar

    Sure it’s apples to oranges but my ’98 Civic and ’06 Scion Xb, both built in Japan are the pictures of reliability while two US-built Honda Odysseys I’ve owned have been far below par in build quality and durability. Don’t care if it’s co-incidental, I’d prefer to buy a japanese car built in japan than a japanese car built in the US.

  • avatar

    I think that Toyota 4Runners are indestructable, and better than Tacomas since they’re still built in Japan as opposed to California/Mexico/Texas. I think the old Nissan Maximas were indestructable, but once they were made in Tennessee, who knows, they may be good but not the same. I also drive a Japanese made 2002 Mazda Millenia and let me tell you it is pure shit; probably the worst car I’ve ever owned. I have a 1998 Chevy Blazer that although ancient in technology and with huge panel gaps, cheap interior parts, and other typical GM-ness, is overall way more reliable than the Mazda on a day-to-day basis, and the Chevy has over twice as many miles on it.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    ” … if Ford’s recent momentum can be attributed to its not receiving a bailout …. ”

    I’m pretty sure that is a false conclusion. Ford’s recent momentum has more to do with improved products and a still massive dealer network than it does with bailout anger. Ford’s global product portfolio is in much better shape than GM’s is (excepting GM China) and Ford’s quality numbers are in the first rank now.

  • avatar

    While the quality slide in US made VWs “back in the day” was unmistakable, would a manufacturer like Toyota allow their assembly quality to slip in the name of higher profits and/or market share? When you come down to it, the primary reason to buy a Toyota is the reliability, not for the driving experience and certainly not for the styling. But that reliability is what allowed for high resale values, and high markup at the stealership. It also gets you the red dots in CR that the auto-ignorant covet so highly. However, even ignoring the unintended acceleration fiasco, by most measures Toyota quality has decreased even though reliability is still tops in meaningful surveys like True Delta. Had UA not made the headlines, most people would have been slow to figure out the cheapening of the Toyota name because the reliability is still there. The question is this: Does the decrease in Toyota’s overall quality have anything to do with place of assembly? I would venture to say no. The reduction in quality was carefully thought out and well planned. And that would apply no matter who did the assembly.

    • 0 avatar

      +1. I drive a Japanese-built Mazda3. Although fit and finish are decent, the car has been rather unreliable, plus interior parts are fragile and break/get damaged easily. Japanese-built Subarus are said to be robust, but those have sucky engines which tend to disintegrate quickly. So I believe the overall quality of a car depends primarily on them planned obsolescence considerations rather than where it was assembled.

  • avatar

    “Now, thanks to the recent politicization of the car industry, a transplant factory is nothing short of a brilliant marketing tool.”

    Define “recent”.

    Since the days of the Ohio Honda assembly plant, I have asserted that these plants are PR factories first, auto assembly plants second. Especially with the long-standing over-capacity in the auto producing world.

    When I sold cars, I met many people who insisted upon a “Japanese” Japanese car. That told me volumes about what people think of the Made in USA transplants.

  • avatar

    I think that second YouTube ad is for the South African market (the .za top-level domain gives it away). Though it may have been used in the Korean market too; I don’t know.

  • avatar

    I think it is good idea to say that sell them where you build them. The impact will be that the transportation cost reduced; which maximum profits to the company.

  • avatar

    It’s a great idea.

    Quality, personally, has never been location-based. It’s management-based. I’ve driven Indian and Chinese-built cars that feel just as good in terms of fit and finish as Japanese-built cars. It’s all in how management executes quality control.

    The Sorento is a pretty good truck. Not quite as good as the best Japanese, but a definite step above its Santa Fe predecessor and very competitive with the midfielders in terms of material quality and engineering.

    Oh… and it looks good. Which is about the only thing that really matters to most buyers.

  • avatar

    What am I missing?

    The first ad doesn’t feature a factory at all, if that’s what you were trying to imply.

    The second ad is aimed at the Zambian market so isn’t about how it plays in Korea, either. The Made In Korea plays to African perceptions – Korean goods are synonymous with high quality, while Chinese goods are synonymous with poor quality. The African car shopper wants his Kia from the Korean factory, not the Chinese.

  • avatar

    My Ohio built Honda Accord has been top notch in terms of quality. When it was new and competing with the likes of the old Ford Taurus, it was far superior to the then Atlanta/Chicago built Taurus not because of where it was built, but the design and engineering of the final product.

    I don’t think a Japanese assembly man is any better than one in the US or Europe or anywhere. Quality starts with engineering/design and ends with the management at the assembly plants. Anyone can install a dashboard. It just needs to be well engineered and management needs to supervise and make sure it’s installed correctly.

    One thing I will note is that old equipment can lead to sub-par final products. Tolerances will go out over time, etc. That said, a brand spanking new factory/equipment probably does have an advantage there.

  • avatar

    I think there is a cultural difference. The Japanese, culturally, hold themselves to a higher sense of personal honor than many Americans do. That’s why crime rates and such are so low in Japan vs. the US. Give a Japanese person a repetitive, monotonous job such as opening and closing the car doors to test for proper fit, 12 hours a day, and they are likely to channel a lot of concentration and energy into doing exactly that. Your union American worker is probably quite good at the same task nowadays, but more likely to be counting down the minutes to their next break–and it’s hard to blame them. Repeat this scenario over millions of assembly routines and cars built and the total sum equates to Japanese cars being assembled to higher tolerances. My personal opinion is that they are the best in the world at that.

    That said…it doesn’t mean a better car in the end. The car may lack in design, may lack in driving feel, may lack in interior space/packaging, or may lack in character. Reliability in the design may lack, also. But the assembly will likely be excellent. My Mazda is a perfect example of this (great assembly, not great reliability, character or packaging).

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