“Bicycling is a big part of the future. It has to be. There’s something wrong with a society that drives a car to work out in a gym.”
— Bill Nye, the Science Guy
As bicyclists lobby for bike lanes, paved trails and other infrastructure in their cities in an effort to make two-wheeled transport a viable alternative to cars, it’s refreshing to see an automobile manufacturer acknowledge the presence of cyclists on the road and urge drivers to share it.
A new TV commercial for the 2011 Kia Sportage says: “With enough innovation to make you feel both safe and spoiled, the 2011 Kia Sportage is perfectly capable of owning any road, but prefers to share it. After all, we started out making bicycles. Sharing — that’s how we can all drive change.”
Near the end of the brief commercial, a spiffy-looking yellow Sportage is shown driving down a wide city boulevard accompanied by five cyclists.
The Seoul-based automaker, whose name means “to arise to the world from Asia,” was founded, according to Wikipedia, on June 9, 1944, as a manufacturer of steel tubing and bicycle parts. It started building bikes in 1951.
In 1952, says the online encyclopedia, Kia changed its name from Kyungsung Precision Industry and expanded its operations to start building motorcycles in 1957, trucks in 1962 and cars in 1974.
An earlier Kia ad to introduce its first United States plant, in West Point, Ga., begins with the line: “Our story began with a bicycle, back in 1951.”
It features a boy on a bike, looking like he just rode out of a 1950s Schwinn ad, tooling through the streets and roads of West Point and then touring the Kia plant, where the Kia Sorento is built.
I wonder if Kia is the first automaker to field an ad that promotes sharing the road with bicyclists. Usually, when bicycles are included in TV ads for cars the bikes are being carried on racks or shown being outdistanced by the cars.
Does the Kia ad portend an awakening awareness among automakers of the increasing number of cyclists on the roads and the need to accommodate them? Or, to take a more cynical view, in the words of a comment by “Christian” on the website of Urban Velo magazine:
Is the automaker “just trying to market to hipsters who are about to graduate from college, craigslist their fixie, get an entry level job … and buy a KIA”?
It’s probably a bit of both.