Kia Embraces At-Home Test Drives


With various government and corporate entities pushing rolling restrictions to our everyday lives, the automotive sector has gotten extremely creative in how it does businesses over the last nineteen months. Everything is being digitized so business can be conducted remotely, including sales. But this creates an issue for shoppers who — and this is going to sound crazy — actually want to see and familiarize themselves with one of the largest purchasing decisions they’re likely to make this year before committing.

Luxury brands were already testing at-home test drives and subscription-based vehicle exchange programs by the start of 2020. But we’re now seeing more pedestrian brands trying similar strategies to reach customers from beyond the confines of the dealership. Kia even recently announced a pilot program to sync digital sales with at-home test drives. Called “[email protected],” the service allows shoppers to schedule a vehicle to be sent to their home for an hour-long assessment. 

But the service caters exclusively to urbanites and is limited to just the Kia Carnival minivan and Niro EV. Customers living in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City Metro, Philadelphia, Seattle, or Washington, D.C. will be the only ones capable of taking full advantage. Those living in Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, Orlando, Phoenix, and Tampa can certainly utilize the service but Kia will only be delivering the Carnival for testing.

These are two models the brand would undoubtedly like to see moving in more significant numbers in North America, so it makes sense they’d be part of the pilot program. But we think it’s kneecapping [email protected] unnecessarily by keeping the brunt of its lineup out of the experience. Obviously, the manufacturer feels differently.

“Personalized, convenient and on-demand, [email protected] brings an interactive and unique Kia experience to shoppers when and where they want,” Russell Wager, vice president of marketing for Kia America, stated. “The all-new Carnival MPV and all-electric Niro EV are two of Kia’s most high-tech offerings, and now consumers can get behind-the-wheel for up-close-and-personal test drives in their own individual, real-world settings.”

It’s not a bad idea. But we’re wondering about the associated costs and logistics. Similar pilot programs that prioritize customer convivence have been scrapped by automakers after they realized the program wasn’t going to be profitable. Book by Cadillac is just one of several examples that had to be cut and then relaunched under a heavily revised strategy.

Granted, [email protected] is a different beast and requires less of a commitment from all parties. But it doesn’t come with the subscription model that guarantees payment for the program’s overhead. There’s effectively no need to commit to buying anything and that could explain the hesitancy to things scale up.

Those interested need only live in one of the metropolitan areas listed above and select one of the two available models on the brand’s website and select the “Test Drive At Home” button. From there the manufacturer will work with a local-area dealership to schedule your appointment at a time/place of your choosing and, hopefully, get you inside the vehicle for more than the allotted hour. Reservations can be made now through October 3rd when Kia will likely take time to assess whether or not the program is sustainable.

[Image: Kia]

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