Marketing Stinger as a ‘Future Classic’: 5 Questions With Kia VP Saad Chehab


Kia Stinger

Kia brought out the Stinger performance sedan as a model that could change the perception of the Korean brand.

Now, Kia marketers believe that Stinger has moved the brand a long way down the road to doing exactly that with it muscular looks and a powertrain that generates 365 horsepower, with Brembo high-performance brakes and all-wheel drive in a $39,000 package.

Stinger is selling about 1,600 units a month in the US market, and Kia marketers haven’t been afraid to compare it with the BMW 4 Series for about $5,000 more—which it has outsold for eight of the past 11 months, according to Kia—and, styling-wise, to the BMW 6 Series Coupe.

“That car is about $90,000, and you can get a six-cylinder GT Stinger for about $40,000,” Saad Chehab, vice president of marketing communications for Kia Motors America, told brandchannel. “And you can get to a speed of 167 miles per hour in Stinger. That’s value to value.”

brandchannel discussed the Kia brand and marketing its surprising sports car with Chehab.

It’s a tough environment these days in the US for marketing sedans, maybe more so for performance sedans. What do you see for the future sedans?

Kia Saad Chehab

The market is split; still, I would say there’s a huge market for sedans. There are millions being sold each year, meaning there is still a huge opportunity in that market. On top of that, a lot of folks have left those segments. We’re about 50 percent sedans and 50 percent SUVs and minivans. We have a good opportunity to appeal to folks who still want lower-level entry and exit vehicles with sedan styling.

Who is the modern sedan buyer and what do they want?

There’s a market that still exists and is very healthy for that segment, whether competition is European or American. Sedan buyers are looking for sporty, style, sleekness and comfort. There’s accessibility and fuel economy to be taken into consideration. And from an economic perspective, it’s a frugal way to go. And you also have enthusiasts who are looking for performance and agility as well as handling, design, accessories and so on, with room for four or five people.

What was the idea behind Stinger?

One of our slogans used around the world is, “The power to surprise.” We surprised the world with Soul in that [compact-SUV] segment and it’s still the biggest success story in that segment. It has become an icon. Optima did that same job in that [compact sedan] segment when it was the hottest.

Now Stinger comes into the four-door sedan segment, and the challenge was: Can we be the best of the best in design and engineering in that segment? And the answer is yes, we were able to do it. We beat every [sedan] in almost every single category and then you look at the price value. Stinger has outsold the 4 Series BMW for eight months of the past 11.

So would you say Stinger is a value play that you’re not afraid to put up against the best performance sedans of the era?

With Stinger’s performance, paddle shifting, head’s up display and Brembo brakes, it beats any another vehicle of a similar size or shape in the category such as BMW 6 Series or even Porsche Panamera.

And this brand has come a long way since 20 years ago. We’ve been No. 1 in quality for four years in a row with J.D. Power, and in the top five of Consumer Reports for most reliable. When you consider quality, dependability and reliability, you can talk about Stinger as “a future classic.” You can only point to so many [car models] out there and say the are future classics, and Stinger is one of them: jaw-dropping stats, engineering, design, quality fit and finish, and on top of all that, our outstanding warranty.

And the car has swagger—I can’t think of a single time that I was driving and the Stinger didn’t turn heads.

How are you marketing Stinger?

We revealed it at the Detroit Auto Show almost two years ago. Then we took it to a media drive at Nürburgring [the famous race track in Germany]. We’ve had it ice driving in Sweden and in Colorado because Stinger is all-wheel drive.

Advertising-wise, we just did an online commercial with LeBron James.

And we’ve also had customer activations and Stinger salons all around shopping malls; that’s never been done before in the mainstream business where someone opened up salons for products other than higher-end ones. And then we had a Stinger Experience ride-and-drive event where we brought in Audi A7, BMW 4 Series Grand Coupe and Porsche Panamera and had customers drive along.

Get more insights in our Q&A series.