June 19, 2024

The World is changing – US Car Dealers are NOT! Case in Point: KIA of Downtown LA


With the world changing fast, and bad practices being called out and forced to change, it is really sad to find that car dealerships tend to stick with what has worked, what has made them rich for so long: scamming, bullying, sexual harassment, intimidation.. Whatever it takes to force a car down the throat of a customer at the highest price.

This might be new to people who live in the US, but in other parts of the world, new cars are actually ordered by their clients, built to specific request, and the customer has to wait months for delivery. The prices are set nationally. There is always some wiggle room, but that is it. It is generally a very honest and still profitable business. Used vehicles might be a little less clear, but at least you KNOW that when you go to an official dealership that sells used cars, you can trust that you’ll be treated fairly and properly, plus you know you’ll find the best used cars for sale.

What a stark contrast to a very recent experience our reporter Gaby had while wanting to buy a new Kia Soul. Through her bank Kia of Downtown LA had advertised a specific white colored Kia Soul, with very specific VIN number for sale at a very very specific price. She called the dealership, asked if that car was still available, and upon confirmation went in to buy that car fro that price within the next hour.

Was she in for a ride!

Over the next 4 hours and indeed the following week since this has been going on, she has been confronted with lies, deceit, illegal practice, male chauvinistic behavior, sexual intimidation. She felt abused, degraded, marginalized and ultimately robbed of valuable money.The white car was suddenly silver with a different VIN. Then it became white, but with a different VIN and more expensive. Then the white car with the correct VIN was “just on its way” but still had to have the oils filled and computer set up. They would do that first thing in the morning and deliver the car immediately after that.

That early the next day became 8:42 PM, in the dark, and parked 3 houses up the road where there were no street lights. In photos taken on delivery you can see that the car had substantial damage to the driver door. That was of course denied and the responsibility for that damage was put on the customer. Even with time stamped photographic evidence and witnesses, the dealership still avoided taking responsibility, blamed it on this stupid and ignorant female driver.


Not wanting this to sour gaby’s purchase I did try to help. I reached out to my PR contacts at the KIA head office in Irvine, California, James Bell and John Dominguez, and asked them to at least help avoid escalating this, make sure the Kia brand image does not get hurt by the behavior of this dealership.

Stunning silence. No reaction at all!

Kia has spent many years dragging itself out from the really bad image it had when it started in the US, selling the really cheap Ford and Mazda derivatives nobody wanted to be seen in. We have followed that climb up on the steps and have applauded this focus and determination throughout the 12 years of Car Design TV. We have always made sure we mentioned their focus on excellence, certainly in comparison to their competition, but also in general.

I blame myself for not having researched beyond the cars themselves. Your brand image is not only determined by the product you sell, but how you sell that product and whom represents you to sell this product. THAT is an essential part of who you are as a brand. If a company produces excellent quality products but sells them through shady operations with very bad customer reviews, bad Yelp reviews even, it doesn’t bring the message correctly across to the customer. That is for instance the reason why Toyota with their Lexus brand, Nissan with Infiniti, and even Hyundai/Kia itself split up Hyundai, Kia and Genesis to different dealerships. No Lexus customer had to experience what a mere Toyota client had to.

Gaby has driven many a Kia vehicle through her work here, and therefore had built up a confidence and trust in the brand, enough for her to decide to buy a Kia Soul. What a disappointment.

I wonder if it is seriously not time that this whole US car dealership nonsense gets to be put on the scrap heap where it belonged a long time ago already? Tesla has been pushing for this already, but the ‘oh so powerful’ NADA lobby in Washington is preventing this change. Of course they are. They consist of all of these kind of shabby dealers and they don’t want competition, they don’t want change, they don’t want to face responsibility for their actions. They have contracts written up that take away all rights of their clients and gives all rights to their NADA dealerships. And of course, since their Washington lobby is nearly as strong as the NRA lobby, they are getting away it too. It is like a mafia, making money by the buckets as long as they can, however they can, legal or illegal.

I know I am not making any friends with KIA PR with this article, but I would think you would do the same if you see a friend being mistreated and abused. If you would not do the same, you are not human and are probably part of the problem rather than the solution. I am not trying to bring Kia down. I am strongly suggesting that your dealer network is as important in representing your brand as any other expensive advertising campaign you can come up with, even stupid Hamster ones. If Kia or any other brand lets themself be bullied into accepting this nonsense, they will NEVER get to where they rightfully belong after all their effort in climbing upscale.

#MeToo #malechauvinismmuststop #decencyisworthit #clientisking #KIAmotorsUSAwakeUP #KIAofDowntownLAScam

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