ANALYSIS: Kia eyes Europe growth and sportier image
Kia's new Sportage is a key model for the brand in Europe as it looks for more volume growth
Kia will post a seventh successive record year for sales in Europe in just over two months’ time, with every confidence that there is more to come. We received an update on Kia’s Europe strategy at Frankfurt.
With several major European markets now showing strong growth, the promise of increased capacity from new and expanded factories and a model programme similar to that which, starting in 2008-09, propelled the company to its present position, Kia’s European executives were in bullish mood at the Frankfurt show.
“We sold 200,000 cars in the first six months of this year for the first time, and we are confident the total will be 385,000 by the end of the year, which will be a 9% increase on the 354,000 last year,” said COO Michael Cole.
Kia’s star attraction at Frankfurt was an all-new version of its top-selling model in Europe, the Sportage. It begins a complete model renewal programme stretching over the next two or three years. But there will also be entries in new segments – a first large estate car, based on the Optima saloon; plug-in hybrid and GT versions of the Optima; a stand-alone hybrid crossover; a B-sector SUV and a pure-bred sports car.
“With the renewal of our product portfolio and market growth we are expecting to continue our growth for some years,” said marketing chief Artur Martins. “Spain is now very good, Italy is recovering, the UK [Kia’s major European market] is tougher because of the exchange rate and a lot of pressure from some brands, and Germany and France are stable. We have a 2.7% market share in Europe, but in the private market where the money is made it is 3.5%.”
Martins admits there is “not a natural balance” in the sales performance of its European models – the Sportage (27.5%) and Cee’d (22%) are responsible for almost half the company’s business. But he puts this down to “production limitations” with certain cars, most notably the Rio, which sells in a sector that claims 30% of all European sales.
“With the opening of our factory in Mexico next year that will release some more Rio production for us, which is very important because it is in such a big segment,” he says. “We will strengthen the Cee’d with more capacity at Zilina and we are adapting the product more to European needs with our new T-GDi engines, 7DCT gearbox and GT-Line trim level.
“We will position ourselves as a more sporty brand. Our strategy is to offer GT-Line with every model range; there will be GT-Line and GT versions of the new Optima [also revealed at Frankfurt]; and we are studying whether to add a GT version of the Rio because of the halo effect it can have. And now that we have Albert Biermann [poached from BMW’s M division] with us, in future our cars will drive the way they look.”
Kia car sales
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Western Europe is EU15+EFTA; Enlarged Europe is EU15+EFTA+EU11 (EU11 = countries that have joined EU since 2004 or 'new accession' countries)