By Lawrence Papoff
If you want to give a future generation of car buyers an appetite for your vehicles, why not let them drive one? Not for a brief test drive with a salesperson in the passenger’s seat, but on their own for as long as they want and whenever they want.
That’s one of the goals of Kia Canada’s car sharing program, explained Robert Staffieri, the automaker’s director of marketing.
“Youth is a very important demographic to Kia Canada,” Staffieri said. “We want to expose youth to the brand. The program lets Kia drive positive opinion early.”
He went on to dub the program the “ultimate test drive,” that lets students “enjoy the vehicle within their own lifestyle.”
For the first year of the program, students at the first group of 16 participating schools in Quebec and Ontario will be able to get behind the wheel of a Kia Soul, Rio sedan and Rio five-door.
Next year, as the program expands nationwide adding 25 schools. The automaker said the Forte and Sportage vehicles would also be available with the expansion.
He said the automaker wants to introduce students to vehicles which are fuel-efficient and, hence, kind to the environment. All are equipped with Kia’s gas direct injection technology.
And here’s the second goal: to teach students that driving a car, at least driving a Kia, is not a threat to the environment.
One of Kia Canada’s partners in the effort is StudentCarShare, the campus-based organization, which will be responsible for managing the vehicles and getting the word out – primarily on social media – to potential program members. Students must pay a yearly membership fee of $75 to have 24/7 access to the cars on participating campuses, he explained.
Members then pay an hourly rate of $8, insurance included. All they have to do is bring the car back with a full tank of gas.
The third goal is to teach responsible driving.
“We want to promote responsible driving,” he said. With that in mind, wherever the CarShare logo is on display, so will the MADD logo.
MADD or Mothers Against Drunk Driving is another Kia partner in the program.
In addition to 24/7 access, members use will not be confined to the area where they are attending school. Kia Canada members will be able to drive their Kia to another Kia share campus and leave it there if they wish or go to a participating campus and pick up a Kia to drive them to their campus.
All they need do is reserve a vehicle. Reservations are available anywhere from six minutes to six months in advance.
However, in keeping with the responsible driving theme, members under 21 will have their access electronically restricted to no later than 11 p.m.
He said Kia dealers would service the vehicles. And no vehicle will be in the program for more than 18 months. When they are out of service, Discount Car Rental, the forth partner, will make the vehicles auction them off to Kia dealers.
Discount buys the cars from the automaker and makes them available to CarsShare.
“We are cultivating new customers. This is a benefit ultimately to our dealers who get happy, new customers,” Staffieri said.