Lifestyle

StreetKiaz.com – The longest running Kia street tuning community August 29th, 2013

Original Article by Michael Choo, General Manager, Overseas Communication

Updated by Jeet Dhindsa, Assistant Manager, Overseas Communication

Over the past few months we’ve been introducing our Kia Buzz readers to some passionate individuals who have been bringing people from all walks of life together – both on- and off-line to share their desire for community and interest in Kia cars. Drivers from all across the globe have been recognizing Kia’s quality in design, performance and reliability, so it’s only natural that like-minded individuals find a means to connect and discuss their cars. Today we’re going to feature the online group StreetKiaz.com that was first covered in a company print newsletter back in 2004. We wanted to catch up with its founder and see how far it’s come since then.

 StreetKiaz

When Mark Ingalls bought his first Kia – a 2000 Sephia LS – he had no idea that his relationship with Kia products would soon blossom into the world’s largest and longest running street tuning Kia car club.  Mark is the founder of StreetKiaz.com –“the organization for the advancement of the Kia import” – whose stated mission is to “put Kia in the aftermarket spotlight.” Since its humble beginnings in October 2001, StreetKiaz.com has received millions of visits and gained an international following.

One of Mark Ingalls’ StreetKiaz – a Kia Sephia being decked out with body graphics

How it all began

It all started back in the good old Yahoo Clubs days. 28 year old Mark Ingalls of Massachusetts wanted to find out what customized parts were available for his newly purchased Kia Sephia, so he went online to seek answers.

To Mark’s surprise he quickly realized that custom aftermarket parts for Kia cars were essentially non-existent. Instead of throwing in the towel, Mark sought to find other like-minded Kia owners who had an itch for street tuning that desperately needed to be scratched. That’s where Jason Mathis comes in, a Kia owner from Florida who had just started a Yahoo Kia car club. Mark reached out to Jason, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect since Jason’s motivation for starting the club was also to look for aftermarket parts and accessories.

Keeping up in the import tuning scene

With the import street tuning scene rapidly gaining popularity and getting more and more mainstream exposure thanks to popular culture boosts such as the birth of the “Fast and Furious” film franchise, the duo tried to stay on top of things by keeping an active back and forth dialogue and posting their notes and photos of their hands-on efforts in developing and installing their own accessories, while passing on information to others in the group.  The Yahoo group was going strong, with new members pouring in and contributing, but they were quickly running out of space. That’s when Mark decided that the community needed to create its own website. On 18 October 2001, StreetKiaz.com was born.

The rise of StreetKiaz.com

Now 13 years later, Mark and Jason’s passion has spawned a truly global online Kia street tuning community.  Dozens of dedicated enthusiasts now help operate the community as site administrators, along with US local state chapter leaders, international chapters, product salespersons, publication editors, graphic designers and research and development personnel.

StreetKiaz Australian chapter member’s customized Kia Rio

StreetKiaz Puerto Rico meet-up event

They’ve come a long way from tinkering with their own parts and have helped inspire established aftermarket suppliers to develop and supply them. Currently, StreetKiaz is partnered with KFX, which exclusively supplies over 1,300 aftermarket parts and accessories for Korean auto brands.

A Forte Koup customization project worked on by Mark Ingalls

Going beyond an online community

Although the StreetKiaz’s site is filled with non-stop activity with millions of visits and tens of thousands of postings on its forums, which are further amplified with its expansion into Facebook Groups, the community also hosts offline events at the local and national level. Activities at these meet-ups include hands-on instruction for customizations and upgrades, import car show participation and simply enjoying fun social activities with Kia enthusiasts from all walks of life.

StreeKiaz.com member Hady displaying a customized Kia Cerato

 

Q & A with Mark Ingalls

How did you first become interested in Kia cars?

I needed a new car, and since Kias were new to the market, I was offered a deal on a quality car I couldn’t refuse. My 2000 Kia Sephia LS was the first car I ever owned.

What’s your attraction to Kia cars?

Kia offers a lot of quality and value, and they are still fresh to the aftermarket scene, which leads to more originality.

How and when did you first get interested in the after-market customization of Kia cars?

I’ve always been interested in the aftermarket scene. I saved a good sum of money from my Kia purchase, so I was able to purchase aftermarket rims and tires the next day. After installing them, the addiction started and the hunt for more parts and accessories began.

Why are Kias ideal for customization?

Kias are great cars for the aftermarket enthusiast. The car is like a canvas for the owner to create and express their individuality. I see a person’s car as an extension of their personality.

What are some insights that you have gained from this experience?

I started Streetkiaz when I was 28. I just recently turned 40. Over the last 13 years I’ve come to learn a lot about the Kia tuning market that we helped to create, such as how owners respond to an open forum that is free of ridicule, stands behind the brand and cultivates a mutual passion to accessorize.

What’s the biggest challenge? How do you grow the site further and keep this labor of love going? 

The biggest challenge has been expansion costs, as we’ve grown leaps and bounds over the years. Streetkiaz still has a vast amount of additions to be implemented on the site and some of the features are very cutting edge that currently can’t be found on the general mainstream websites. The site has been and will always remain free to view, and free of  pop-up ads, so owners can feel welcome to establish their own sections for vehicle builds or postings on ‘how-to’ tips for others to enjoy and try.

With additional resources, I could very easily double the size of the Streetkiaz community, but until expansion costs are covered, I don’t want to self-implode. :-)

How do you make your community’s presence known, especially to people outside of the tuning world?

Over the years, I’ve thought of probably 2,000 or so promotion and collaboration ventures for Streetkiaz’s brand awareness as well as drawing attention to other causes. For example, we’ve done breast cancer awareness, blood donation, Toys for Tots and other notable charity drives.

Now after 13 years Streetkiaz is lining itself up with dealerships for meet & greets and looking to get into more collaboration efforts with both community and corporate events.

What’s next?

StreetKiaz is looking to establish its own line of aftermarket accesories for vehicles. I believe Streetkiaz is now a solidified brand and resource for all Kia tuning needs. And I would like to share the Streetkiaz appeal with more people, potentially through showcase vehicles, and express the possibilities with Kia when it comes to aftermarket accessorizing and tuning. 

Customized Kia Forte Koup – another of Mark’s many projects

Thanks for Sharing Mark & StreetKiaz.com

From the world’s major auto shows to grassroots enthusiast clubs sprouting up in all corners of the globe, it is becoming increasingly clear that Kia is part of a movement – one that’s moving people to connect and live life with a different beat, and choosing a reliable, vibrant car they can make their own, however they see fit.  We would like to thank Mark for sharing his story with Kia Buzz and hope that it inspires others out there looking to start a Kia community of their own.

We also wanted to share this photo from the Vossen Wheels company blog

We don’t know if this US based owner is a member of StreetKiaz, either way this custom Kia Optima caught our attention. See more photos on Vossen Wheels’ blog here.

Learn More StreetKiaz and other Kia Car Communities:

Do you know of a Kia car owners club that hasn’t been featured on Kia Buzz?

If so, let us know in the comments section below!

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Customer Advisory Note and Disclaimer:  Kia Motors Corporation understands that customization can be a part of the ownership experience for automotive enthusiasts. However, please be aware that modifying your vehicles beyond factory specifications can create a possibility of mechanical, electrical and safety impairment, which can void the vehicle’s warranty. The intention of this posting is to highlight a community of Kia owners and enthusiasts, and Kia Motors Corporation neither endorses, recommends nor consents potential and existing Kia owners to modify Kia vehicles in any way beyond manufacturer approved options and accessories. Always check with your local Kia office if you have questions about warranty terms and conditions, contact an authorized Kia service center regarding information on your vehicles specifications and manufacturer approved options and accessories.