• Image Credit: Chris Paukert
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  • Image Credit: Copyright 2014 Chris Paukert / AOL
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I can't tell you how many times I've been driving with friends or family in a decidedly nice Korean press car, only to have a passenger notice the logo on the steering wheel and exclaim, "Wait... this is a Kia?" For every time I roll my eyes at a story with a lede about how Hyundai "is really gaining momentum these days," I get equally annoyed when people comment on how Kia is finally starting to make decent cars. This is hardly news. The brand has been pumping out really solid stuff for a while now.

But as it turns out, not everyone knows that. According to Ward's Auto, speaking to Kia marketing chief Michael Sprague, the automaker recently placed third-to-last in a recent ALG Brand Perception of Quality study, only besting Suzuki and Smart. Wow.

Ward's notes that Kia recently earned a credible sixth place in J.D. Power & Associates' Initial Quality Study, and yet still fell way behind pretty much every other brand in the ALG study. The Korean automaker's cars have also won numerous awards in recent years, and have generally earned positive reviews from the media, Autoblog included.

So, what is Kia doing to change this? "It's doing ride-and-drives at the auto shows, it's showing up at food-and-wine events with vehicles like the K900," Sprague told Ward's. He also cited the company's growing presence in motorsports, and its major advertising push in recent years as part of its effort to improve its reputation.

After 20 years in the US, you'd think Kia's perception would certainly be higher, but Sprague's Kia indeed has a long road ahead. "When I came into the position six years ago, in my head I thought it was going to be about a five-year period of time to change (Americans' perception of us)," he told Ward's. "And it has changed. But I'd like it to go faster. I haven't gotten everybody yet."

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