Kia's Australian distrubutor Ateco Automotive claims the South Korean carmaker has added an entire extra month of production in a bid to keep up with Down Under demand as sales rose 73% in January and almost 80% in February, according to official VFACTS industry figures.

The Hyunda Motor-owned brand Kia broke through the 2,000-sales-a-month barrier for the first time in February to record a total of 2,074, up 79.9% from 1,153 in the same period last year.

An Ateco spokesman told just-auto the the Pregio was the number one van in Australia, the Carnival (aka Sedona) dominated the people mover (minivan) market with 45% of its sector and the K2700 took 61% of the light truck market.

Kia Automotive Australia executives have recently visited South Korea to negotiate an entire extra month's production of all models. The extra volume will start arriving in April and Kia expects sales to slow in March as it runs out of vehicles to sell.

"Kia's sales performance is unlike any other Korean brand that has gone before it," said national sales manager Edward Butler. "In the past Korean car makers have built their sales on the strength of one model in their range. Our success is right across the range, with every model at or near the top of their market sector. This is an excellent basis both for long term growth and stability and also bodes well for the five new models we will launch in the coming year."

"The success of Kia in Australia and globally is now restricting supply of vehicles. Stock levels are now so low that our retail result is being impacted."

Kia Motors announced this week that it will build a new assembly plant in Slovakia to supply European distributors. The plant begins shipping cars in 2006.

Parent Hyundai Motors is also building a car plant in Alabama in the United States. Given Kia's growing volume in the US, that plant conceivably could give one day also build Kia models, further easing pressure on the South Korean factories.