Matt Rodriguez's picture
By Matt Rodriguez

The New Kia welcomes me to the family...and the 21st century

Disclaimer: Kia provided me with an all-expense paid trip to San Diego as part of its 2018 Product Immersion Ride and Drive event. No other compensation was provided. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

For the majority of my life, cars have always just been a means of getting me from point A to point B; nothing more, nothing less. As a result, I’ve never really given them much thought. I currently drive a 1998 Lexus LS400 because that’s what my mechanic had available in my price range when my last car’s engine gave out on me and wasn’t worth replacing. Oh, and did I mention that I’ve always bought used? Yeah, 1998 is actually the “newest” car I’ve owned. But after attending a Kia Ride and Drive Digital Influencer event in San Diego last week, all of that may change sooner rather than later. Kia has welcomed me into the 21st century, and I couldn’t be more excited!

 

Over the course of two days, I along with other social media influencers had the opportunity to learn about Kia’s lineup of award-winning vehicles and then drive said vehicles ourselves and explore San Diego at our own leisure. I have never been to one of these influencer events before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but thankfully my good friend Emma Loggins of FanBolt.com is one of Kia’s brand ambassadors so she was able to show me the ropes and introduce me to the rest of the Kia Family.

 

 

I say family because I would find out that Kia doesn’t just invite whoever has the most followers on social media or makes the most noise online. They bring in people who have a story to tell; one that fits well with the Kia brand. Upon arriving to San Diego I was warmly greeted by those who arrived before me. We all had personal lanyards with our favorite bands underneath our names and outlets so breaking the ice wasn’t all that difficult. Besides, everyone was more than welcoming especially over a game of Jenga or Rock Band or a mutual bonding over the difficulty of painting your own guitar. Spoiler alert; Bob Ross makes painting happy little trees much easier than it looks!

 

The first day was more about relaxing over good food, great drinks, and a killer soundtrack as we all got to know one another, but it was the following morning that I was looking forward to the most. That is when I would be meeting the Kia Stinger for the first time.

 

 

Now I could get all technical and rattle off a bunch of specs and features of the Stinger, but where’s the fun in that? Cars are meant to be driven, not recited like a grocery list. Sitting in the driver’s seat, I could already tell that I was behind the wheel of something powerful, yet at the same time there’s a distinct elegance to the interior. I will admit that I was initially overwhelmed by everything as it was all so new to me. The cars I’m used to driving are real simple; you put the key in the ignition, move the gear into D, and drive. Of course you can do that with the Stinger as well (although you push a button rather than insert a key), but the technology wired throughout the car just makes everything easier.

 

Case in point; the Head Up Display which projects directly on the windshield both your speed and the speed limit of the road you’re currently on along with any important driving indicators. I never had to take my eyes off the road and look down at the dashboard to check my speed. Everything important was always right in front of you. Typically it takes a moment or two for me to adjust to new things, but the HUD was something I immediately fell in love with. It was my favorite feature of the Kia Stinger and truly felt revolutionary in changing how I drive.

 

 

Of course, what’s the point of driving a car if you have no destination? Kia was kind enough to offer up a couple points of interests we could visit including the USS Midway Museum, Balboa Park, Mission Basilica de Alcalá, Hotel Del Coronado, and the Old Pt. Loma Lighthouse. More importantly, they gave each group of influencers a task; use our storytelling to create a short music video. It could be whatever we wanted it to be, and the best ones would win a prize at the end of the trip.

 

Our team consisted of Three If By Space’s Robert Prentice, Live Love Texas’ Kelly Tomlinson, The Parent Normal’s Chris Cate, and myself. We decided to take a page from one of our favorite films and recreate the iconic scene from Tommy Boy. While we didn’t win the contest, we had a great time filming the video and getting to know each other. Honestly, I don’t really think you can truly know someone else until you’re all screaming “Superstar” by The Carpenters at the top of your lungs. Feel free to judge for yourself below!

If singing inside the Kia Stinger wasn’t enough, the evening end with karaoke with the help of a live band. I’m not a singer as you can probably tell from our Kia video, but I’m not one to pass up the opportunity to jam out with a live band, either. Thankfully I had Emma and Robert by my side as we all sang Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Fun fact: I never realized that the titular lyrics don’t actually appear in the song until the very end. (Un)fortunately, I don’t know if there is any video of our performance so you’ll just have to make due with photos.

 

 

Overall, I cannot thank Kia enough for this opportunity to learn more about the brand and to test out the Kia Stinger myself. This wasn’t some closely controlled marketing gimmick made in order to promote all things Kia. This was an event that simply gave us storytellers a method through which we could tell our story however we wanted, no restrictions. It turned out to be an amazing experience because Kia put us influencers first and not their brand. Because of that, everything else just fell into place.

 

Leaving on the plane back to Atlanta, I already couldn’t help but think back to the new friends I made and the new family I had become a part of. We had all come to San Diego to drive Kia’s lineup of vehicles, but with all left with memories and friendships that’ll outlast even the most durable of engines.

 

Disclaimer: Kia provided me with an all-expense paid trip to San Diego as part of its 2018 Product Immersion Ride and Drive event. No other compensation was provided. All thoughts and opinions are my own.