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About that Kia badge…

Now I don’t mean to ruffle any feathers here. There are definitely two philosophies to this idea and no matter which side you choose - you’re not wrong - it’s a personal preference. Re-badge it? De-badge it altogether? That being said, I’m sort of on the fence when it comes to the badge the Kia Stinger. Here’s why…

I was just driving along behind a Kia Optima and thought to myself, “Ya know - the Kia badge isn’t really that bad”. I’m not sure if they’ve slightly updated the design in recent years - but I think it looks kind of classy with its simplicity. On the other hand, its stood for a brand that sold cheap products for as long as many of us can remember.

A company’s brand perception is very important. Look at how long it’s taken Cadillac to regain any ground in the luxury automobile market. They used to be considered the “Standard of the World”. If you’re not too young, you’ll have grown up hearing people say, “It’s the Cadillac of this” or “the Cadillac of that”. Driving a Cadillac meant that you achieved a certain level of success and you could then afford to own and drive the very best the world had to offer.

What can Kia be compared to these days? I think most people have come a long way to consider Kia Chevy’s equal. I know some of us think that’s ridiculous - because Kia is so much better than Chevy. And don't think for a moment the Chevy owners and enthusiasts feel the same way toward Kia. Kias like the Optima kinda beat up on Chevys like the Malibu. And is the Chevy Impala up to par with the Kia Cadenza? Not really. And where’s Chevy’s K900 competitor? At Cadillac in the form of the CT6 - which will be self-driving in 2018…

Then again, you can’t forget that Chevrolet has a long history of some very, very impressive automobiles. Yes, some of them are ancient history (like Kia’s bad reputation will be very soon) - such as the rear wheel drive Impala SS, Chevelle SS, Nova SS and more. How about the Camaro SS, Z28, ZL1. And let's not forget the legendary Corvette, Z06 and ZR1. Where are these Kias?

Well, here comes the Stinger as Kia's first entry into the high performance sports car market. A rear wheel drive, twin turbo V6 fastback sport sedan designed by the heart of Audi and tuned by the heart of BMW’s M division. It’s certainly an eye catcher and it certainly has the performance capabilities to compete in the luxury market. But that badge… And there’s the problem.

On one hand some of us think, “Let’s give credit where credit is due! Everyone should know that Kia made this phenomenal automobile!”. On the other hand some of us think, “The cheap looking badge doesn’t do this car any justice! It’s just as good as an Audi or BMW - but people won’t give it the respect it deserves once they find out it's made by a discount automobile manufacturer” (not so much anymore).

If you take all the badges off and let people guess, some people will be pleasantly surprised to learn it’s a Kia. Others will quickly turn away, lose interest and just say, “Oh” - giving the car no further thought or respect. I can see how that would make some people feel bad. People love to be reaffirmed of their good purchase - and a negative reaction like that would do nothing for the ego.

And let’s not fool ourselves, luxury purchases like this are an ego boost. If it didn’t take anything to achieve a purchase like this, especially in twin turbo V6 GT form, it would have less meaning to own. The Stinger may not have a top tier badge, but it certainly has a top tier presence - and it deserves to be on the same stage. But can it share that stage with the heavy hitters without a heavy hitting badge?

Even if Kia’s own South Korean market, they’ve replaced the Kia badge with the “E” badge and Stinger script. Kia knows this is an upscale product intended for people who buy the very best. What are your thoughts? Should we be upset with people who replace the badge when even Kia did it in their home market? What do you plan to do? Remember, there’s really no wrong or right answer. To each his/her own.

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