For over a decade now, Kia has slowly but surely been moving toward doing the impossible —transitioning the brand image from “ subprime, budget, shady, and non-desirable” to “a slightly Buick-ized version of Hyundai.” In order to do this, Kia dealers have always relied on the one factor in their favor, which is the ability to sell on price. While the MSRPs on Kias aren’t too far off the competition, the stores have historically dumped new inventory at prices well below the sticker. Looking at an Altima? Why not try this Optima at $3,000 off instead?
Of course, when you operate this way, it makes it difficult for salespeople and managers to make any money, since there’s little to no profit in the deal. For over a decade, Kia has offered sales staff what’s known in the business as a “spin” every time they sell a new car — they can call into a number or log on to a website and enter a VIN-specific code for a “spin” and a chance to win a bonus that ranges from $25-500 per car. If you sell Kias for a living, this is likely how you’ve been paying your bills for as long as you can remember.
According to sources within Kia dealerships, a little over a month ago, without warning, Kia stopped its OEM incentive program for management. Then, for October, again without warning, Kia stopped the spin program for sales people, also with no explanation. Rumor has it this decision comes from the new VP of Sales for Kia Motors America, Bill Peffer, who came to Kia from a dealership group in the Pacific Northwest. Dealers tell me that they’ve repeatedly e-mailed their corporate contacts for explanation, but none is expected.
Other than a sharp increase in the mortgage foreclosure rate for Kia dealer employees, what does this mean for Kia in the States?