Kia will launch five completely new models in the next three years, as the Korean brand looks to achieve 100,000 UK sales by 2020.
In addition to the five additional cars – about which Kia is currently giving no details, five current model lines are being completely renewed. These include the big-selling Sportage SUV, the fourth-generation of which goes on UK sale on Friday 5th February.
The Car Expert spoke to Kia director Hamish McCowan at the UK launch of the new Sportage, who said that the brand’s 1.2 per cent sales increase in 2015 in a very competitive market was satisfactory despite the market as a whole achieving 6.3 per cent – Kia enjoyed its best-ever year for UK sales at 78,489 units, more than double the 29,372 the brand was achieving less than a decade ago in 2007.
Britain also contributed 20.4 per cent to Kia’s total European sales. “The UK is now the fifth-largest market globally for Kia, just behind its domestic market in Korea, China, the USA and Russia – our nearest competitor is Germany but they are doing 55,000 cars,” McCowan adds.
As part of the 100,000 by 2020 plan agreed five years ago Kia UK is targeting 84,000 UK sales in 2016 and has already started strongly, the brand’s January figure up more than three per cent even before the new Sportage went on official sale. The 2016 year will be one of renewals, the first four of the new models not appearing until 2017 with another in the following year.
Challenges to the growth aspirations could come from the continuing competitiveness of the UK market, global economic uncertainties and potential supply issues – though the latter could be helped by the opening of Kia’s eighth global plant in Mexico in 2016. This is expected to contribute 300,000 vehicles a year freeing up capacity in the brand’s Korean plants.
The brand is working on what McCowan describes as ‘Progressive, Organic Growth’, and part of this will see the current 188-strong dealer network increased to 200. However some new outlets are not expected to open until close to the 100,000 target which will be required to make some open points viable.
McCowan adds that Kia’s way of working with its outlets, which includes realistic targets and adequate supply, in partnership with its outlets, means that dealer groups want to join the brand; “We think through our relationships, we offer orderly business with no chaos, and as a result we’re always in the top five of NFDA tables.”
The brand is also investing heavily – notably in Britain where a new £20m logistics facility is opening on the Humber estuary at Stallingborough, with a capacity of more than 17,000 vehicles.
Money is being put into creating new global website platforms and integrated customer relations management solutions, while the cars themselves are benefiting from design and innovation, notably the focus on powertrains and driving dynamics led by former BMW man Albert Biermann and the recent launch of the ‘DriveWise’ banner that groups together Kia’s work on convenience safety and technology advances, particularly in cutting emissions.
Finally the brand is seeking to increase its public profile with extensive sponsorship, prime examples being the Euro 2016 football championships and UK cricket.
The Sportage will be a prime part of that growth – the third-generation model accounted for 20 per cent of Kia’s UK sales and secured its best-ever performance in 2015 with 23,010 sales in what was its run-out year. For its first full year the new Sportage is expected to achieve 25,000 sales and 28 per cent of a confident Kia’s UK total.
New Kia Sportage first drive – click here