Dear Readers and viewers,
Of late, quite a few amongst you have been asking us as to when we’ll be reviewing the upcoming Kia Seltos on our website and Youtube Channel. The straight answer to that question is that we’ll not be reviewing that car anytime soon, and this post is meant to explain to you as to why we have taken this decision.
To start off, we need to let you know that we are not alone in this decision. Many independent media houses, driven by owner-editors who don’t have to succumb to pressure from their sales and marketing teams have joined hands with us in this decision. Prominent auto publications namely Motoroids, India Car News, Gaadiwaadi, Gearfliq, MotorBeam, GaadiFy and CarblogIndia have decided to not review the Kia Seltos.
Now, our decision to not review the Kia Seltos is driven by some very bothersome practices followed by automakers in general, and Kia Motors in particular. At the very centre of this decision is a brazen misrepresentation of facts by the media facing team at Kia Motors. The decision is also meant to oppose the blatant bias the team at Kia Motors practised, and which, alarmingly, seems to be becoming the new normal within the auto industry.
Talking specifically about the Seltos, we are listing out two of the most worrisome instances, among others, where Kia Motors’ Indian media management team acted in a biased, unfair manner. Needless to say, this was detrimental to our motive as journalists, which is timely reportage of important industry happenings.
During the unveiling event of the Kia Seltos in India, a small group of ‘select media’ members were allowed to shoot the car separately – a day in advance. This handed them an unfair advantage, as their first impressions, write-ups and videos were out while we were still attending the unveiling ceremony held on June 20th 2019.
A small ‘select media’ group was taken to the brand’s production facility at Ananthapur and was given a purported ‘sneak peak’ of the product. When the concerned officials were inquired by this group about the activity, they commented that it was just a feedback session, and no reviews or opinions were meant to come out of it. Contrary to what we were told, full blown text reviews of the car having being driven at the company’s production facility were published on the respective platforms of these media outlets. Not just was an unfair advantage handed to a select group of media, the rest of the media was blatantly misinformed about the event.
Now, this media group fully understands that it’s Kia Motors’ prerogative to invite or not invite any members of the media to its events. Having said that, to invite media to the ‘global unveil’ of a product when it’s already not just been unveiled, but allowed to be shot by a bunch of other media is rank misrepresentation of facts. Also, disguising a media drive as a ‘feedback’ session, and later, as a ‘prototype’ drive doesn’t quite help the image of Kia Motors in India as a company following high ethical standards.
As an example, Tata Motors’ Harrier media drive witnessed the entire media community driving a ‘prototype’ for the drive event, and it amounted to a full blown review for everyone. At a time when established carmakers in India are moving away from such practices by providing a fair and equal opportunity for product reviews, and by enforcing embargoes during media drives, it’s disheartening to see Kia Motors taking a step in the opposite direction.
What’s really unfortunate is that most of the auto publications, newspapers and many other auto media outlets are perfectly fine with this biased, second rate treatment being meted out to them, even if it’s topped with unabashed gibberish as an excuse by the respective PR Teams.
What’s even more shocking is, when this group of media brought these malpractices to the attention of the Indian and global management of Kia Motors, they did not even bother to acknowledge the email. In fact, the Indian media management team at Kia Motors tried to manipulate and divide this media group by offering some of them money via marketing deals, not sending invites to three of the publications from the group after having sent them Block Your Date emails and even pressurizing some media outlets to attend the drive event through their marketing agencies.
In the meantime, the members from the media management team of Kia kept calling us, acting completely ignorant about the communication from our end and kept asking us to confirm our flight options. This was rather absurd, as our emails had clearly specified that we will take our decision based on the official response of Kia Motors to our concerns.
Finally, when this media group resiliently thwarted the attempts to be manipulated, and called out Kia Motors for a formal reply, we received an email from the very people responsible for the mess – the media management personnel of the company. The email reeked tokenism, and as before, misrepresented facts in a bid to cover up the deliberate bias and misinformation as something totally innocuous. With the email, the media management team of Kia Motors misrepresented the Kia Seltos drive as only the second public-facing event.
To start with, there had been more public events than two. The Kia Seltos media drive at the carmaker’s Ananathpur plant was most definitely a public event, as full review reports were available for the public to read with hardly any details left to be uncovered for later. Just because it was held at the Kia facility, didn’t make it any less of a media drive event. It was duly published by every media house that participated.
Some of the members of the media who were not invited, when they inquired about the event, were told that it was just a ‘feedback’ event and no reviews or stories were to come out of it, which clearly wasn’t the case. Kia events with media involvement happened in Bengaluru and Delhi as well and were duly published. And it’s this practice of blatant misinformation that really displeased us more than anything else. Based on these observations, this group of media eventually decided to refrain from attending the media drive event of the Kia Seltos.
On our part, we’d love to work together with Kia Motors, as we always have with every single automaker in the country, though this is possible only if we are treated with respect, fairness and equality that we deserve. We would love to hear from the able leadership and luminaries at Kia Motors who have made this fabulous brand scale such heights, as to how in today’s Internet-driven world, is it justified to completely ignore new media; that too on such a large scale.
We would also like to hear from our audience as to what they think of our stand, and whether they can also sense the bias and prejudice that ails the journalist fraternity in the auto sector.
Finally, minor differences aside, and despite having witnessed these aberrations, we would like to think that it’s a human and not a process-driven error. We would still like to think of Kia Motors as a carmaker of global repute and would want to wish it all the best for all its future endeavors in India.