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Kia Execs Done In By Soap on a Rope?

Posted by: David Kiley on February 12, 2008

Kia dealers are angry over the unexpected and swift departures of Kia Motors CEO Len Hunt and marketing chief Ian Beavis just a week after the arrival of Kia group chairman Byung Mo Ahn whi is running Kia’s U.S. divisison, as well as the oversight of the company’s Georgia plant under construction.

According to Ad Age, the reason for the ousters of Hunt and Beavis had to do with soap-on-a-rope. Huh?

Kia began running a President’s Day sale, themed the “Unheard of President’s Day Sale,” honoring, “in tongue-in-cheek fashion, the first commander in chief to have running water in the White House. The punchline of new TV ads promoting the sale is a soap-on-a-rope bust of President Millard Fillmore; the automaker handed out the same soaps to reporters at its media dinner last week during the Chicago Auto Show.”

Ad Age’s Jean Halliday: “But Byung Mo Ahn was not amused. The South Korea-born executive, who returned to Kia’s Irvine, Calif., headquarters nine days ago in the newly created position of chairman and group CEO of Kia Motors America and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (the automotive plant currently under construction in West Point, Ga.), doesn’t like the current brand of humor in Kia’s ads, according to executives close to the matter. One of those executives said Mr. Ahn prefers to show the cars and trucks as serious contenders with good quality.”

After yesterday’s blog entry on the announcement of the shake-up, I recieved a phone call from an executive doing business with Kia who suggested I was being unfair charging Kia’s Korean management with being less than mature, or savvy about the U.S. market. I also received a comment accusing me of being “prejudiced.”

If Halliday’s report is even half right, I think perhaps the theme of immaturity and impetuousness in Kia’s executive suite holds water.

I mean…what happened to the idea that if the new big-cheese coming in doesn’t think the advertising is on the track he’d like, let’s sit down and talk about it and hatch a new strategy?

Reader Comments

Ken Lichtig

February 13, 2008 5:46 PM

What could be funny to you MIGHT not be funny to others especially if the person is relatively new in the country.

We live in a world of Political Correctness. It was a good ad if this ad was for GM, Ford and Chrysler.


February 18, 2008 10:12 PM

Sounds deeper than just one theme or "mistake". It has that special "the straw that broke the camel's back". In other words this was most like one in a series of disagreements over strategy between executives. Korean cars have come up tremendously in quality and Kia Korea has a strong point. The past is the past. The Yugo was funny, but this isn't.

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