2019 marks the 20th anniversary of KIA entering the Canadian market. Over that time, the brand has grown and matured to become an award winning OEM. CAF spoke with Stephanie Smith, Manager, National Fleet Sales to learn more about how fleet has evolved since the company’s inception.
20 years ago in 1999, Kia Canada Inc. opened for business with 43 dealerships and two nameplates - the Sportage and the Sephia. Since then, Kia has grown significantly to a national network of nearly 200 locations and today, offers customers an award-winning lineup of eleven nameplates. The rapid growth of the brand in Canada has been aided by a dramatic improvement and leadership position in both design and manufacturing quality, but accomplished through the hard work of Kia Canada’s dedicated employees and dealership staff. Those same hardworking individuals and a growth mindset has built Kia’s Fleet program from humble beginnings to being a trusted partner for fleet owners, operators and managers across Canada. CAF sat down with Stephanie Smith, Manager, National Fleet Sales Kia Canada to talk about the past, present and future of Kia Fleet.
CAF: Kia Canada has come a long way in the twenty years it has operated in Canada. How has the role Fleet sales play matured along with the company?
Stephanie: As a young brand in Canada, Kia ‘s largest challenge still remains getting Canadians into our vehicles and familiar with the level of quality we can deliver. The Fleet team plays a big role in this by ensuring that our vehicles are spread out across the country in strategic areas that help to get more and more Canadians inside the vehicle. Whether it’s for one year or one day, once someone gets into a Kia, they understand what the power to surprise is all about and typically become brand ambassadors that help spread the word in their networks.
CAF: Kia entered the Canadian market with two compact vehicles in 1999, the Sephia sedan and Sportage SUV. How has the KIA lineup evolved to serve Canadian retail and fleet customers?
Stephanie: From two nameplates to eleven, the Kia lineup has grown to include something for almost every driving need. The biggest growth though, has been in the quality and reliability of our product. Ranking as the highest mass market brand in J.D. Power’s U.S. Initial Quality Study for five years in a row is a great example of just how good Kia has become and translates directly into providing Fleet customers with a product that their team or customers will be happy with and can depend on.
CAF: How has the transformation from being perceived as a “cheap and cheerful” brand in its early days, to a world class, award winning company, taken place?
Stephanie: This transformation has been a methodical one and it started with a commitment by the brand to improve every single day. From manufacturing to design, the Kia brand is not afraid to take chances and always ready to change something if a better solution presents itself. It’s exciting to be part of a company that is able to change and improve so fast and you can see it every year in our product lineup.
CAF: Fleet customers have an abundance of choice. How does KIA fleet stand out from the competition?
Stephanie: The power to surprise. It might be our brand slogan but it’s much more than that. Fleet customers want their teams and customers to be pleasantly surprised when they get their vehicle so when we can provide that experience for them, it makes us a great choice.
CAF: What are your fleet customers most impressed by when dealing with Kia Canada?
Stephanie: We believe our customers are most impressed with our dedicated Account Manager service that is providing a one point contact from order to delivery, special inventory dedicated to fleet customers and importantly our exceptional quality and warranty.
The Kia brand is continuing to evolve, especially when it comes to working towards a sustainable future. Kia is investing heavily in long-range electric vehicles, and is one of the only brands to offer two different variations – our 2019 Kia Niro EV and the 2020 Kia Soul EV. Both offer more than 380 km’s on a single charge and have a slew of advantages (rebates, lower fuel and maintenance costs, access to HOV lanes and parking, etc.) that business big or small can be looking to take advantage of. Kia’s Fleet program is here to stay and has the products and services to meet your fleet needs.