Saturn Dealerships Proved Perfect Fit For Kia's Expansion

September 29, 2010
2008 Saturn Astra

2008 Saturn Astra

Over the past several years, around the U.S., Kia has really started hitting its stride. And while simply getting into any of its new vehicles—like the redesigned 2011 Kia Optima—will point out that it's no longer strictly a compromised, bargain-basement brand, nowhere is this more apparent than out at the auto mall, or wherever the main strip of auto dealerships set up shop.

While not too long ago Kia dealerships were small and often either combined with other brands or located out of the way, near used lots, the brand is now likely to be found in high-visibility spots, with large, standalone facilities. To solve a teething issue last year—that its dealerships weren't always in prime locations or in the best facilities—Kia launched an effort to recruit Saturn franchisees and in some cases Saturn facilities; GM's decision to abandon Saturn made many of the former brand's facilities—and franchise owners—available and open to selling Kias.

John Crowe, Kia Motors vice president, service, said that in a number of places the Saturn showroom conquests worked out perfectly, as they were mostly newer, larger facilities in prime spots.

Kia has been adding dealerships so rapidly that the brand's total number of U.S. dealerships has shot up from the 500 range to well over 700 in just two years. And while the number of U.S. new-car dealerships dropped at a record rate, with 258 closing in the first half of the year, Kia was among just a few automakers to open showrooms.

Crowe says that there are still a few dealerships that have been with Kia since back in the days of the Sephia, and the brand has done its best to bring them up as the brand has ascended.

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