Kia now officially under Ayala Auto Group

By Botchi Santos Philippine Daily Inquirer December 19,2018
Kia now officially under Ayala Auto Group

Day-to-day operations will be handled by Manny Aligada, a 20-year veteran professional of the Ayala Group.

After almost a year in the making, Kia now has officially been placed under the Ayala Group’s stewardship as the new managing importer/distributor.

While Columbian Automotive Corporation will retain a minority share in the new company, management will be under the Ayala side.

Kia joins five other mobility companies now part of the Ayala Group’s portfolio, which include Honda, Isuzu, Volkswagen, KTM Motorcycles, and more recently Maxus, a China-brand of commercial vehicles under the AC Industrials Holding Company of the Ayala Group.

Heading the new Kia management team is Arthur Tan as chairman, while day-to-day operations will be handled by Manny Aligada, a 20-year veteran professional of the Ayala Group, who started his career at Globe Telecom for 14 years before moving to Volkswagen for six years.

His assignment as Kia’s president is his biggest and most challenging yet.

When select media personnel teased him whether Manny had a choice to become Kia Philippine’s new President, Manny enthusiastically said: “I had a choice to decline this new assignment, but I saw the value Kia will bring to the (Ayala) group, and the potential for growth and improvement it had, so I wholeheartedly accepted.”

Aligada cites that it took a year to finalize and iron out all small details, as they were approached by Kia late in 2017 to be one of the favored bidders to take over the Kia brand in the Philippines.

There were other interested parties as well, but Kia saw real value by aligning the Korean brand with the Ayala Group, one of the country’s largest conglomerates with interests in real estate, banking, fuel, oil exploration, food, manufacturing/electronics, and the automotive industry, as well.

And therein lies the real challenge.

Kia’s sales started at 2,358 units in 2003. It peaked to 10,010 units in 2015.

In terms of market share, 2012 was Kia’s best year, where it held a significant 4.2 percent market share, considering Kia wasn’t present or competitive in 40 percent of the automotive segments in the Philippines.

Yet, in the segments it was present, Kia’s vehicles were always competitive, particularly the Rio, Picanto, Soul, Sportage, and Sorento.

As the market continued to soar for 2016 and 2017, Kia as a brand lost relevance as both its sales and market share declined.

The year 2018 will be Kia’s second most dismal year, ending with a projected 2,400 units sold, which gives it a 0.6 percent market share.

In contrast to 15 years ago, its 2,358 units sold in 2003 gave the Korean brand a 2.6 percent market share.

There is hope, though, under the Ayala stewardship.

The brand’s immediate 12-month plan sees it building the Kia brand up, which means better sales, better aftersales, better financing options, and strengthening the brand’s 37-strong dealership network nationwide.

Next up will be to improve, upgrade and professionalize further existing dealership facilities, strongly implement the company/corporate identity look or image, and of course, expand its dealership network.

There are only 10 Metro Manila dealerships as of the moment, and the brand has begun to identify key growth markets in Northern Luzon, Palawan and Southern Mindanao.

Kia, under the Ayala Group, has begun discussions with existing partners who wish to add more dealership outlets.

It has also begun discussions with potential partners for new dealerships across the archipelago.

The Ayala Group is also a tech-savvy conglomerate, and will introduce more digital capabilities to the brand, allowing it to reach out to a new, younger audience who are considering buying their first vehicle.

It is slowly studying technology trends to allow it to adapt to a quickly changing market landscape.

When asked what models the new Kia brand will sell, Aligada pointed out that their existing lineup will still be present.

When prodded what new models they will introduce, Aligada mentioned that in the Kia brand’s formal re-launch under the Ayala Group on Jan. 30, 2019, three new models will be unveiled, which Kia is keen to keep under wraps as a surprise for everyone.

Ultimately, under the Ayala Group, Kia wants to deliver on value: value to the entire Ayala Group, value to its clients and customers, and value to existing Kia owners.

As Aligada pointed out during the media presentation: “Value is not only about price. Value is about giving the best product that you can give, (with the best features and amenities) at the best price. It’s about giving the best in sales and aftersales service, and giving a worry-free ownership experience for the long-term.

“As a brand now under the Ayala Group, Kia, together with AC Industrials, will be here for the long term.”

Sweet and promising words indeed. Let’s hope and pray that these words come true, as Kia has a very ambitious goal for 2019: to sell at least 10,000 units next year.

Tall order indeed, but with the Ayala Group’s backing, it is very possible and likely indeed.

With Kia’s tagline being The Power to Surprise, I hope the Kia brand truly delivers a very pleasant, positive, and a welcome surprise to the Philippine automotive market in 2019.

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