Seoul Man

I hate this car.

At my day job yesterday, we were trying to decide which Kia to write about. There’s a new Forte5 on the way in November, so we figured we’d preview it, under the assumption that the Forte was probably one of Kia’s top sellers.

But instead of going on my assumption, I took a look at Automotive News to see how how much bread the Forte actually butters. I ran across a news piece on Kia’s sales this year, and as it turns out, it’s not a whole lot.

As it turns out, Kia had a record-setting month in July, selling just over 35,419 vehicles, a 19 percent increase since the same period last year. And who says the economy sucks?

Contributing strongly to that record-setting bottom line was the Sorento, the Korean manufacturer’s RAV4 and CRV competitor, with 9,000 units sold. And right behind it in the number 2 slot was the Kia Soul, with 8,020 new owners in the month of July.

As the caption states, I hate the Kia Soul. I think it’s a mean little car that offers very little in the way of practicality, performance or style. I think owning one ten years from now is going to be like still rocking a pair of KangaROO sneakers. The Soul is rapidly approaching its sell-by date.

But the truth is, it’s not for me. The Soul seems to appeal to people a lot younger than I am. Older people buy Kias, of course, but their demographics skew a lot younger than most car manufacturers. A LOT.

The Soul is vastly different than the Honda Element or the Scion xB. Both were marketed heavily to a younger audience, but seemed to be almost universally purchased by old people that enjoyed the fact that they could fall in and out of the driver’s seat with a minimum of effort, and conveniently store their Hoverround inside.

Your average xB owner.

I once worked with a guy that was a dead ringer for Hans Moleman from the Simpsons.  About three days before he retired, he bought himself an xB. When he drove out of the parking lot, all you could see was his tiny bald head and his giant glasses, just barely poking up over the window frame. I often wanted to take a picture and send it to Toyota to show how miserably its marketing had failed.

But Kia seems to have hit the sweet spot with the Soul. I certainly wouldn’t want to drive one, especially when winter hits around here. I can imagine snow sticks to that windshield pretty well, and its lack of all-wheel drive and ground clearance wouldn’t be salved by the cool mood lighting inside.

Then again, it all remains to be seen whether the 18-24 year old demographic buying the Soul can manage to pay their bills. Mitsubishi went that route a decade ago, and a lot of those Spiders and Galants were financed to the kind of people who’d pay for a Slim Jim with a credit card and did most of their banking at the pawn shop. As a result, Mitsubishi is currently on life support.


About Craig Fitzgerald

Craig Fitzgerald is an automotive writer, photographer and editor with credits in Hemmings Motor New, the Boston Globe, Forbes, the Washington Post, Esquire and
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One Response to Seoul Man

  1. Mithrandir says:

    Actually, close to 40% of Souls are purchased by the 50 – 100 yrs old demographic.

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