I got behind a Kia Telluride the other day and couldn’t help admiring the brand’s new SUV. In fact, I had considered buying one when I was in the market for a new full-size SUV last year and gave it a good look at the Detroit Auto Show. I ultimately chose a Subaru Ascent. You see, even if the Ascent didn’t win me over by a few salient points, I couldn’t have bought the Kia anyway.
The reason had zero to do with the quality, appearance or performance of the Telluride. Indeed, I can’t bring myself to buy any Kia. It’s not what you think. I have no problem with buying a vehicle from a South Korean automaker. It has everything to with the company name–Kia.
You see, my father was a World War II veteran. He was actually a hero, awarded the Silver Star for capturing a house of Germans by ordering them in Yiddish, which sounds a lot like German. He passed away in 2007, but something he said to me when we were driving around one day long before that stuck with me.
My father started shaking his head and said to me, “Ed, that car in front of us. It says KIA on it.”
“Yes,” I told him. “That’s the name of a South Korean automaker that just started doing business here in the U.S.”
“Are you kidding me?” he said. “Do you know what that means? In the Army if you’re designated KIA, you’re dead—killed in action! Who wants to driving around with Killed in Action on their car? Someone made a bad mistake!”
I explained that KIA stood for something in Korean that has nothing to do with the Army designation and that they were pretty good cars.
“Even so,” he said with a little laugh, “I’d be pretty spooked driving around with KIA on my car.”
I hadn’t thought of that day for a long time because I had only bought Jeeps in the years near the end of his life until I retired from Fiat Chrysler in 2016. But when I was ready to consider other brands, I…just…couldn’t…do a Kia.
I did admire that Telluride and almost put it on my list, but I kept hearing my father’s voice–bewildered and bemused at the same time, saying “I just couldn’t drive a car that says “killed in action.”
When I got home from the auto show I told my wife about the Kia Telluride. She flashed a big smile and laughed as she said “Kia? Killed in action? Your father would never let you hear the end of it.” And that ended it.