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Broward Times: Profile on Kimatni Rawlins: Coming Out of His Shell

Friday, September 28, 2007 1:04:30 PM  
BY T.V. FLOYD    

When young urban consumers are in the market for a new car, many turn to a popular website that has quickly gained a reputation for showcasing the latest vehicle releases.

For the past five years, AutomotiveRhythms.com has built a following of car buffs looking for transportation, ranging from economy vehicles to luxury wheels of steel.

With a few clicks of the mouse, anyone can experience this web portal, which is the brainchild of Kimatni Rawlins, 33, of Burtonsville, Maryland.

With a target audience of 21 to 44 years of age, Rawlins’ website is sought after by corporations looking to tap into that coveted market.

“We are able to reach a different market through Kimatni’s efforts,” said Dominick Infante, manager of product public relations for Subaru in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. “Through his media distribution outlets, he reaches that hip-hop music segment that may not be as familiar with our brand.”

Rawlins’ website features a host of automotive reviews tailored to the trendsetting panache of the African-American market.

“No disrespect intended,’’ reads one auto review on the website. “But in the past a Saturn was like an American Hyundai. A car purchase driven by economics, a ‘get me from A to B car,’ so to speak. It appealed to first-time car buyers, new drivers, and those not looking to necessarily get there in style. But today is a new day, and this Saturn Vue Red Line has its sights set on higher-end European and Japanese competition.’’

Another review on the website of a Dodge Grand Caravan states, “Though most ballers would consider a minivan playa kryptonite, it is a true gift to parents with two or more kids.’’

To disseminate his messages about the automotive industry, Rawlins utilizes a magazine, website, car shows, and a TV show called ARtv. Each distribution channel is upbeat, edgy, attention-grabbing, and informative. 

“We started with the website and it instantly became popular,” Rawlins said. “We kept creating more partnerships online. The magazine came about for the need of consumers being able to walk away from an event with something tangible.  We don’t make any money from the magazine, but it is a branding strategy.”

“I receive correspondence about Rawlins’ automotive events,” said Alan Miller, former Director of Strategic Business for DaimlerChrysler, who now resides in Atlanta, Georgia. “It has a wealth of information for people who want to keep abreast of the industry.”

Rawlins’ literature is a reflection of the information on his website. You can learn about Harley Davidson’s newest bikes, sports and entertainment, safety issues, car care, custom rides, and a listing of auto shows.

“Car shows are key for us, because the idea is to have the user in action,” said Rawlins. “As African Americans, we like style. Our job is to help them fit into the car and check it out.”

Rawlins’ concept of exposing young urbanites to various vehicles through his marketing endeavors caught the attention of Shell Oil. He was tapped by that company to inform his target audience about the advantages of using Shell’s V-Power brand.

“My job is to educate car and bike owners about getting the best performance from their vehicles,” said Rawlins. “I tell them about the extra additives in Shell’s V-Power that makes engines operate better.”

To convey his message, Rawlins passes out free Shell gas cards to car show attendees. Once they use the gas, he says, they tend to stay with that particular brand.

“We get great feedback from the gas cards,” said Rawlins. “One guy in Silver Spring, Maryland said that he still goes back to the gas station because of what I told him about the advantages of utilizing that particular gas.”

“Aside from being a respected member of the automotive community, Kimatni’s ability to communicate with young buyers is what really makes him stand out,” said Anne Peebles of Shell Oil Products U.S.  “Whether it’s an event, a video produced by ARtv, or an online article, Kimatni’s mix of automotive knowledge and urban lifestyle is something young trendsetters can identify with.’’

According to Rawlins, his company representatives attend 50 to 60 events annually. Additionally, they have their own platform to enlighten drivers called Urban Restyln.

“We make it a very entertaining environment,” said Rawlins. “Whether it is a concert, festival or car show, participants are enthused and tend to stay longer.”

“Kimatni dresses up the cars and puts different wheels and other gadgets on the cars to make them appealing to the young urban market,” said Infante of Subaru.

Rawlins, a 1997 graduate of Georgia Tech University in Atlanta, Georgia, majored in Business Administration and minored in Marketing. He has used his background to help shore up a foundation in the automotive industry. 

“I started in this business by working for my father,” said Rawlins. “After paying my dues there, I ventured out on my own.”

Rawlins’ father is Randi Payton, publisher of the African Americans on Wheels publication. For five years, he cut his teeth learning about the industry. He then began working as a freelance writer, contributing automotive articles to UpScale, Sister-to-Sister, Brides, XXL, and Vibe magazines.

As a former running back for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Rawlins knows the value of teamwork and building alliances.

“We have partnerships with AutoTrader.com, American Black Film Festival, LEG clothing, Air Jordan, Akademiks, New Era, and all major car companies,” said Rawlins. “We have a great relationship with Scion, which does a lot of street marketing because they want to reach the younger kids. Chrysler Dodge is also a partner with the Urban Bike Tour.”

For Rawlins’ ambitious outreach in the automotive marketing field, he was honored with the 40 Under 40 award by Networking Journal Magazine in 2004. He is currently the president of the Washington Automotive Press Association, which is a 300-member organization of professionals in the automotive media business. 

Rawlins is married to Misa Jenni Sumi, 33, whom he met at a networking event in Washington, D.C. They have been together for the past three years. They have two daughters, Kaiyana Ayako Sumi, 1; and Mikaiya Maat Sumi, 4. 

When asked what his favorite car was, Rawlins couldn’t single out one in particular.

“For a budget car, I’d have to select the Infiniti M45 Sports Sedan because they give you a lot of technology for the money,” said Rawlins. “But, if I were Bill Gates, I’d choose an Aston Martin DBS or a Ferrari 599.”

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