In a reversal, Kia Motors America now says it won’t delineate its environmentally friendly U.S. models with an EcoDynamics badge.

The sub-brand, unveiled last year by parent Kia Motors Corp. at the Frankfurt auto show, was slated to go global, but resource concerns have nixed plans to introduce it in the U.S., a top KMA official tells Ward’s.

“The issue is it’s yet another brand,” says Orth Hedrick, director-product planning for KMA. “And given the fact we’re trying to allocate our resources to other areas that make the most sense, does it make sense to introduce another brand out there?”

That is a common concern in a still-depressed U.S. market, where some auto makers, namely the Detroit Three, have been weeding out brands.

GM terminated Pontiac, Saturn and Hummer in 2009, while Ford this year announced the end of Mercury.

While those terminations were more about freeing up engineering resources and reducing product cannibalization, Kia’s move to forgo the EcoDynamics badge appears to be a marketing-based decision, as the auto maker still plans to introduce the elements of EcoDynamics on its cars and trucks.

“My guess is that they realized the concept of EcoDynamics created not only another brand, but also created the need to educate consumers – an expensive proposition,” says Jim Hume, principal-Phire Branding Co. of Ann Arbor, MI.

While the auto industry has some sub-brands with successful track records, such as the performance-oriented BMW M and Mercedes-Benz AMG, “in this particular case the delineation is tricky,” Hume says. “Kia setting apart Earth-friendly vehicles via a sub-brand may have taken away from any Earth-friendly story in Kia-branded vehicles.

“It is better to highlight everything Kia is doing under one strong brand umbrella.”

Hedrick echoes this, saying the coming hybrid-electric version of the redesigned ’11 Optima midsize sedan “will extend the interest in (the Kia) brand and build on our fuel-economy packages and other eco-friendly technologies.”

Kia uses the EcoDynamics badge on hybrid versions of the Forte, Cee’d and Sorento models in Europe.

Some EcoDynamics features already are available on Kia models here.

For instance, the new ’11 Sportage cross/utility vehicle has standard low-rolling resistance silica tires, electric power steering and a “smart,” free-wheeling-type alternator, Hedrick says.

A “green” automotive sub-brand is not without precedence.

Toyota Motor Corp. has used the Hybrid Synergy Drive badge to distinguish its U.S. hybrid-electric vehicles. However, it has admitted the tactic has been unsuccessful and now is toying with the notion of employing “Prius,” the name of its best-selling hybrid, to separate its greenest cars and trucks.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com