By on August 9, 2021

With various government and corporate entities pushing rolling restrictions to our everyday lives, the automotive sector has gotten extremely creative in how it does businesses over the last nineteen months. Everything is being digitized so business can be conducted remotely, including sales. But this creates an issue for shoppers who — and this is going to sound crazy — actually want to see and familiarize themselves with one of the largest purchasing decisions they’re likely to make this year before committing.

Luxury brands were already testing at-home test drives and subscription-based vehicle exchange programs by the start of 2020. But we’re now seeing more pedestrian brands trying similar strategies to reach customers from beyond the confines of the dealership. Kia even recently announced a pilot program to sync digital sales with at-home test drives. Called “[email protected],” the service allows shoppers to schedule a vehicle to be sent to their home for an hour-long assessment. 

But the service caters exclusively to urbanites and is limited to just the Kia Carnival minivan and Niro EV. Customers living in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City Metro, Philadelphia, Seattle, or Washington, D.C. will be the only ones capable of taking full advantage. Those living in Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, Orlando, Phoenix, and Tampa can certainly utilize the service but Kia will only be delivering the Carnival for testing.

These are two models the brand would undoubtedly like to see moving in more significant numbers in North America, so it makes sense they’d be part of the pilot program. But we think it’s kneecapping [email protected] unnecessarily by keeping the brunt of its lineup out of the experience. Obviously, the manufacturer feels differently.

“Personalized, convenient and on-demand, [email protected] brings an interactive and unique Kia experience to shoppers when and where they want,” Russell Wager, vice president of marketing for Kia America, stated. “The all-new Carnival MPV and all-electric Niro EV are two of Kia’s most high-tech offerings, and now consumers can get behind-the-wheel for up-close-and-personal test drives in their own individual, real-world settings.”

It’s not a bad idea. But we’re wondering about the associated costs and logistics. Similar pilot programs that prioritize customer convivence have been scrapped by automakers after they realized the program wasn’t going to be profitable. Book by Cadillac is just one of several examples that had to be cut and then relaunched under a heavily revised strategy.

Granted, [email protected] is a different beast and requires less of a commitment from all parties. But it doesn’t come with the subscription model that guarantees payment for the program’s overhead. There’s effectively no need to commit to buying anything and that could explain the hesitancy to things scale up.

Those interested need only live in one of the metropolitan areas listed above and select one of the two available models on the brand’s website and select the “Test Drive At Home” button. From there the manufacturer will work with a local-area dealership to schedule your appointment at a time/place of your choosing and, hopefully, get you inside the vehicle for more than the allotted hour. Reservations can be made now through October 3rd when Kia will likely take time to assess whether or not the program is sustainable.

[Image: Kia]

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15 Comments on “Kia Embraces At-Home Test Drives...”

  • avatar

    It would be interesting to see the test drive contract language. Years ago the local Honda dealer had a “weekend” test drive program. They signed out a Ridgeline. The dude drove it to Florida. Legally they couldn’t do anything. The local Ford and Chevy dealers had a similar test drive program and abandoned it after a few pickups were wrecked.
    My favorite which hit the news was in Vancouver region a guy test drove a new pickup and went on a crime spree.

  • avatar

    I’d love this just so the sales person wasn’t sitting next to me attempting small talk while I’m trying to, you know, DRIVE the darn thing. Also I could drive MY perfered route. I often don’t live or work within that boring four block loop around the dealership. I am most familiar with my normal commute so ideally a drive between my house and office is the best way to shake down a potential vehicle purchase.

    Seeing the vehicle in your own driveway or office parking space could be a powerful selling tool.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m fortunate in that I’ve had the same salesman at Mazda several times. He hands me the keys and says I’ll see you back in about 20 minutes. The dealer is right next to the freeway, so it’s easy to give it some beans to test acceleration and braking. There’s also a vague facsimile of some bendy bits to sus out body roll at normal speeds.

      • 0 avatar

        Welcome to why my last Harley (Electra Glide Ultra Classic) was actually bought from the local dealership – and it was a used model to boot. The salesman said, “take it out”, I gave him a rough idea of the loop I planned to take and the time that it’d take, and he was fine with it. Returned only two miles over and five minutes late.

        Sixty miles and a hour and a quarter was all I needed to convince me that the Gold Wing had to go.

    • 0 avatar
      Undead Zed

      Wow, I never thought about that advantage. I’d love to be able to do a test drive along my daily commute and back.

      • 0 avatar

        Did it at my Honda dealer in 2019. Arranged to take out a duplicate trim level to what I wanted, and they said “take all the time you want, just have it back by 2:00 (closing time on Saturday). Picked it up, took it home, drove on my normal commute route, and back to the dealership where I had them place an order.

    • 0 avatar

      This seems very salesman-dependant whether they come with you. One VW dealer handed me keys and said have fun, after seeing I had a Lexus. (He asked what I was driving and I pointed.)

      The other VW dealer came with me on an assigned route and I was not given an option.

      Subaru dealer said here’s the keys, and suggested a route I might take which had various road types (including steep hills).

      Honda dealer rode with me in a loop around the dealership when I checked out a GS. Once he saw I wasn’t going to crash, he told me to take it out on the road, and I dropped him back off at the dealership.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The only time I did a test drive at home was on a used 2012 Kia (back in 2014), as the dealer suggested I try it for the weekend.

    I returned that Monday with a laundry list of items that needed attention, and was flatly told the vehicle was being sold as-is.

    I did end up buying a car there, but it was a leftover new 2013 for only a little more money, and a fresh warranty.

    As for this program, it won’t last long if people don’t bite after their test drive.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    In my area both Tellurides and Sorentos are sold before they hit the Dealer’s lot under these current market conditions.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      This area as well.

      Saw my first Carnival in the flesh Saturday. Like the Telluride and Sorrento, a great looking vehicle. EXCEPT. Those damn silver design “flourishes” near the C pillar. Adds nothing but annoying-ness to an otherwise very strong design.

      • 0 avatar

        Just saw my first driving through very rural Indiana over the weekend. It’s a good shape (yes, a compliment about a H/K/G product) but somewhat overdone. But at least it flows a whole lot better than whatever drugs the Honda designers were on when the designed and then signed off on the Odyssey.

        Now if they would only have a sudden logo revision, things would be so much better for them. The way KIA is scribbled out is very jarring to these eyes.

  • avatar

    So let me get this straight. Jacksonville has more folks that live in it than Orlando and Tampa combined and does not benefit from this. Why?

  • avatar

    Would really love to see this scaled up. Two years ago I was deciding between a 2019 Accord Touring and a 2019 Stinger GT2. Went with the Accord because the Stinger “felt” lower and was worried that the sporty stance would prevent it from fitting in my garage. Fast-forward several months when I sat down to actually compare the ground clearance specs, the length and the turning radius of the two – it turns out the Stinger would have been a better selection. The Accord stood so low, and turned so (so so) wide that I had to get concrete work done as well as clandestinely cut my neighbor’s overgrown weed “forest” facing my garage in order to get in. Even with all that, it’s still a challenge that others driving my car won’t do in fear of causing damage. Regret not getting that Kia every time I see one passing.

    • 0 avatar

      The turning circle on the 10th-Gen Accords is astonishingly large, especially with struts up-front. (My understanding is that the double-wishbones which used to be Honda’s stock-in-trade will result in a larger turning radius! But none of my DWB Accords took as much space for a 90-degree turn as my 2019!) I have a 90-degree turn to enter my garage, and it’s always a two-movement maneuver to park inside!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    In today’s limited supply and selling at MSRP or above dealers for the most part don’t have to let you test drive because they can sell a vehicle to someone who does not request a test drive. Hopefully in the next few years there will be less shortages of new vehicles.

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