Funny, Fickle Consumers – Or Why The Kia Rondo Flopped Here (Maybe)

August 17, 2011

A year ago this month, our sister publication TheCarConnection reported that Korean automaker Kia confirmed the demise of its Rondo minivan.

Though it won some hearts and minds with TCC’s editors, the cross between a minivan and a hatchback never really caught on with U.S. consumers during its years in the market from 2007-2010.

This brings to mind a valid question as to why. A more recent article in TheCarConnection explores some of the reasons, as well as contemplating why the Rondo remains a success north of the border in Canada based on a news report from The Globe and Mail.

Let’s look at the Rondo’s strengths and perceived weaknesses for a moment and contrast what the Rondo offered versus the competition which, by the way, continues to capture a certain segment of the market.

What the Kia Rondo offered was a family-friendly vehicle with room enough for up to seven passengers (with optional third-row seating). Granted, that third row was a tad tight and best suited for small children, but that isn’t anything unusual with smaller vehicles and cramped seating space way in the back.

Rondo also boasted clever storage spaces, was fairly nimble on the road, and, lest we forget, was quiet at highway speeds and offered up a nice amount of power.

On the not-so-appealing side, there was that curious Kia marketing campaign with such strange words as ‘cabinosity’ and ‘giddyupedness’ to contend with. Oh, it was a marked departure from competitor campaigns, all right, just not something Americans were used to. Fast forward, however, and Kia continues to surprise consumers with campaigns for the popular Sorento and Soul. So, we’re inclined give the automaker credit for creativity.

And no one apparently was attracted to the Rondo purely for its looks, bland as they were. Rondo had none of the Soul’s check-me-out appeal, or that of competitor Nissan Cube. It was just, well, plain and practical.

That’s not all bad. It just isn’t enough to sell with today’s funny, fickle U.S. consumers.

Contrast the defunct Kia Rondo with the current Mazda5 minivan and there’s another conundrum. In Canada, both Kia Rondo and Mazda5 sell equally well. Canadian dealers are said to be eagerly awaiting the next-generation Rondo.

Yet here in the States, as Kurt Ernst opines in TheCarConnection, “we still want our SUVs and full-size minivans.” And when we buy small cars, “we favor sedans over hatchbacks.”

One caveat here, and well worth contemplating, is the increasing popularity of hatchbacks like the Ford Focus. Is yet another shift taking place in the market?

Funny thing about us fickle consumers. We certainly know what we want when we want it, and when we don’t.

[The Globe and Mail via TheCarConnection]

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