Kia turns to bots to help sell Niro hybrid

Kia hopes to create showroom atmosphere for Facebook Messenger users

Published: November 21, 2016, 5:00 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 3:21 PM

Kia Nirobot

Kia is enlisting help over social media to introduce its new Niro hybrid crossover to a new generation of buyers — it’s created a bot.

It’s kind of a risky strategy for Kia because bots aren’t really liked in social networks, primarily because they’re algorithms pretending to be real people. They can take up your time with unwanted conversations, they key on the things you like and can sway your opinion, and they can comment on everything you say. They’re electronic creepers and sometimes you don’t even know you’re engaging a non-person.

That’s not the case with Kia, as it’s making no bones about NiroBot being a bot. It’s even right there in the name. And, it’s going to operate over Facebook Messenger, so if you don’t use it, you don’t have to worry being engaged.

“The all-new Niro is like nothing else on the road today, and kicking off our pre-launch strategy by breaking new ground with our bot for Messenger that will make the new car research process much easier and more efficient for shoppers,” said Kimberley Gardiner, director of marketing for Kia Motors America (KMA). “The user-friendly interface combines the experience of being in a showroom with the convenience and mobility today’s car buyers are looking for as users interact with the NiroBot at their own pace and focus on the specific areas that interest them most.”

NiroBot will attempt to entice social media users to the 2017 Niro, though, with full screen galleries for interior and exterior images, virtual vehicle walkarounds, extensive specs, step by step systems tutorials, and even the opportunity to schedule test drives.

NiroBot was created and implemented by Ansible, KMA’s agency. In addition to providing a near endless stream of information, the bot can also connect Messenger users (totaling more than 1 billion monthly) to Kia websites and live customer service representatives.

“Word of mouth remains the most influential, and coveted, form of brand communication. However, when launching a car and building awareness in a crowded marketplace it’s hard to achieve,” said Travis Johnson, Ansible’s global president. “We created the NiroBot to be everywhere our customers are – in chat platforms – and allow them to have a natural conversation about the Niro enhanced throughout by multimedia such as videos, images, links and even the ability to register for a test drive.”

Built on a new platform, Niro is what Kia calls a Hybrid Utility Vehicle, or HUV — a stylish sub-compact wagon that is marginally smaller than the Rondo — with a front-wheel drivetrain the only counter to its being called a utility vehicle. It will be arriving in showrooms any day now, with Kia teasing a potential plug-in hybrid somewhere down the road.