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Kia Motors India Case Study: Fastest carmaker in 11 months

Learn Kia motors India case study, to understand how in In July 2019, it became the fastest-selling car maker of India in just 11 months, by selling…

Kia motors entered the Indian Market in July 2019, i.e. roughly a year ago on the date we’re writing this post. And, the reason we’re writing this piece is that the carmaker has become a success story. Even with the automobile slowdown and the lockdown. It has become the fastest car sellers in the country by making sales of one lakh units in the last 11 months after it entered the Indian market.

So, when other car manufacturers are struggling during these times, how did KIA achieve this growth?

Let’s first take a look at the history of the company.

A swift light into the history

Started in 1944, Kia Motor Corporation or KIA is a South Korean automaker. They’re headquartered in Seoul and are country’s second-largest manufacturer after Hyundai Motor Corporation. Given the number of cars they sold in 2015 (3.3 Mn worldwide), they were partially acquired by Hyundai company. And in return, Kia took a minority ownership of 20 subsidiaries from Hyundai.

Kia Motors expanded to the United States in 1992, and its approach was conservative. They expanded one area at a time. Why are you learning this? Because this is exactly what they did in India too, so keep reading. By 1995, they had more than 100 dealerships located across 30 states of the US.

However, in 1997, the financial crisis led them to Bankruptcy. And again, in the US, they teamed up with Hyundai, but this time Hyundai took 51% stake of Kia. Again, in return, Kia owns 22 subsidiaries of Hyundai. In 2014, Kia earned great PR when the company was recognized by Pope Francis when he was riding in their Kia Soul, a compact vehicle. It is believed that they created more attention than their Hyundai counterpart compact.

The company currently manufactures sedans, minivans, SUVs, and hybrid vehicles and the Kia Forte has been the company’s number one selling vehicle.

The Powerful Portfolio

In 2017, they laid the foundation for their first manufacturing plant at Anantapur district of AP in India and made its first debut at Auto Expo in January 2018. India was the fifth largest economy in the World that year and the car markets were optimistic then.

Now, by this time, they had not launched any car in India, well, they didn’t even have a ready plant. They were not going to have either of these ready for another year.

But this was a smart move, why? Because they instead choose to showcase to the car enthusiasts what they were selling in the other parts of the World. They showcased their 16 top models at the expo, letting their future customers experience the product. They also showcased the teaser of their upcoming SUV (the first model in India) in the same expo. Essentially, making them excited about what is to come in a year. If you were to look this from a “Marketing funnel’s” perspective, this is where they set the awareness.

Optional watch: Auto Expo 2018 – Kia Motors portfolio
The CSR Program – Green Light Project, India

Exactly after a year to the Expo, in January 2019, Kia launched a global CSR program, ‘Green Light Project’ in India. This was launched in Anantapur district of AP in partnership with the Regional Government. This was done to inculcate vocational and educational training in three educational institutions in the local community. You see why we told you to remember the “one region at a time” above.

Kia motors india case study
  • The first institution they worked with was Save the Children (a local non-profit organization) to promote children’s rights, welfare and education and to improve classroom conditions.
  • The second one they worked with was Anantapur Industrial training institute (ITI), where Kia helped to develop a driver’s license training scheme for 100 students a year. They even went ahead to help these 100 students with having better career aspects.
  • The third institution they worked with was a Government one where they helped locals with educational infrastructure (books, materials, etc.).

Now, by this time Kia had the love of car enthusiasts and the support of the local Government. Now it was time to sell.

Kia entered the market before it entered the market – The consumer study

You read it right. This was their biggest win, per their CEO. It was in December 2019 that the official facility was opened, this marked the launch of Kia in India. But the pre-orders had begun from July 2019. By October 2019 Kia had already registered 50,000 bookings for Seltos – trumping the automobile slowdown back then.


Kia already had a ton of market research data from their parent company Hyundai before they entered the market. But they went beyond for a little more. They found out that 55% of the Indian population was under 30. It had an upward trajectory in terms of technology adaptation and the middle class was growing faster than ever. They understood that these are the people who are aspirational and are demanding differentiated products. So, they set their eyes only on the middle class for the next 5 years.

Now based on this research, they realized that an SUV – Seltos – with cutting edge tech features would do the trick. And the rest is history. They received 50,000 pre-bookings. Reports said their debut month sales beat half a dozen car brands in India.

The Marvel of Marketing

The company also tapped the Digital potential to improve its reach. They chose Tiger Shroff, an aspirational actor, to promote Seltos. The choice was perfect as most of their audience directly connected with the ambassador and did the trick for them.

Kia Seltos Ad ft. Tiger Shroff

The success of Seltos was so widespread that it acted as a catalyst for their next luxury multipurpose vehicle (MVP) Carnival launch at Auto Expo 2020. It made a record with pre-orders received. Kia recorded the sales of 15,644 units in February post the launch. If you believe in numbers, with 6.24% market share they were 3rd largest in February 2020, beating automobile players like Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra. It was surprising to see that the automobile slowdown wasn’t really affecting the sales of Kia as bad as it was to those other Carmakers.

Kia Motors MPV – Carnival launch video

Next, came the launch of Seltos 2020, where they positioned the car to be an absolute badass, this came from the Sales they achieved with their previous two launches, Kia now knew that the audience loved them, and so they capitalized on this via this campaign. Their premium launch acted as a catalyst to improve sales of this model. For the folks who felt premium was expensive, they simply went with Seltos 2020 given there was no love lost in terms of promoting the company was doing.

Kia Motors Seltos 2020 – #DontMessWithTheBadass Campaign
The Super engagement

What’s more, the company used Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to promote their features. They used polls of features in their cars, like below. Also, see how the audience was reacting to those polls in comments. Now, although that’s a funny comment, I think it goes a long way at stating the love that the audience has for the brand and car essentially. What’s more, it helps them understand what is the most sought after feature their audience would be looking for. This eventually helped them add more features in the upcoming models.

Recent story

In July 2019, Kia motors became the fastest-selling car maker selling 1 lakh vehicles in India, in the span of just 11 months. Hope the story above helped you understand how they did it.

If I had to summarize their story, they entered the Market way before they actually did – by doing the right consumer research, listening to their audience in social media and staying tuned to the most recent trends.

Two weeks back, they launched their most recent model Sonet – positioned as #WildByDesign. While we’re yet to see the results, given what their audience is saying on various social media handles, we’re sure it is going to receive the same amount of love as their other models.

The author of this piece is Yash Thakker, the story was independently researched and put-together by Casereads. If you liked the work, why not share it with your best friend on WhatsApp or LinkedIn? Subscribe to our free newsletter, here.

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