COLLINGWOOD, ONT. – The driver puts his foot down and the ebony-coloured Forte answers with a snarl befitting an angry panther and races up the hill. Halfway up, the driver throws the car around to see how it handles. The sedan obliges, holding the road with little or no sway. It passes a Forte5 going in the opposite direction at, shall we say, a healthy pace.
Looking for blindspots, another rep throws a 2013 Soul into reverse. He spots one, but judges it not a serious threat to leasability.
The place? Blue Mountain in Collingwood, Ont.
The event? Kia’s 5th Fleet Ride & Drive held in earlier this week.
The drivers? Not auto journalists, but account execs from Canada’s fleet industry.
The object? To see whether Kia’s lineup has what it takes to meet the needs and demands of a variety of drivers, from executives to trades, in real-world driving conditions.
The 30 or so reps get a chance to touch, feel and walkaround most of Kia’s fleet. The 2014 versions of the Forte5, Soul and SX Turbo Optima were for looks only though, as they had a date with the LPGA tour.
Reg Furoy, Kia Canada training manager, manages to exude enthusiasm and, at the same time, painstakingly talk up the features of each from the Soul’s new chassis and engine to the Optima’s LED tail lights that “last forever” but demand less of the engine, making them fuel-efficient. Kia will be using more of this, he promises.
And each and every Kia bears its own version of the signature Kia grille.
“You can really see coming it down the road and it says it’s a Kia!” Furoy says.
And when it comes to being fuel-efficient, he advises Kia has an ace up its sleeve: its own steel mill. That means the automaker can afford to mix more carbon into the steel, making “stronger but a lot lighter,” he says.
“The great advantage.”
So the lineup is appealing and the automaker says it’s taking care not to flood the fleet market.
And when the vehicles come off lease, the automaker offers its fleet buyers “one big, happy circle” – solid residuals and, courtesy its relationship with the North Toronto Auction, a “direct channel” to Kia dealers via an upstream auction of their off-lease stock, wherever they are.
“The biggest bang for your buck,” North Toronto Auction’s Gerry Johnson tells them.