Redesigned 2011 Sorento is first Kia to be built in the US

Redesigned 2011 Sorento is first Kia to be built in the US

Kia Motors America plans to sell 347,000 vehicles in the US this year, up 15% on the 2009 tally. Last year, the Hyundai Motor affiliate sold about 300,000 units there for a market share of about 2.9% market share.

Meeting the target would boost Kia's share into the 3% range for the first time, the Korea Herald noted. Its January sales rose 0.1% year on year to 22,123 units for a 3.2% share.

KMA sales chief Tom Loveless said the automaker would increase sales with the updated Sorento, redesigned Sportage and the recently launched Forte and the Koup.

"The first priority is the Sorento. The second is the Soul. With the Soul we had been restricted by availability, but thankfully we are in a position where availability will improve," Loveless told the paper.

"The Forte competes in the largest (passenger car) segment of the US market. It is a tremendous opportunity, it is a great product."

Of Kia's January sales, Over a third, or about 7,400 units, were Sorento crossover utility vehicles, making it the third bestselling CUV for January after the Chevrolet Equinox and the Toyota RAV4.

US demand for CUVs is projected to rise this year, with expected sales of about 2.3m units, about 20.1% of the overall market. Last year, with about 2.06m sold, the segment accounted for 19.8%.

Production at the company's first North American assembly plant in Westpoint, Georgia, began last November with the redesigned Sorento.

Loveless told the Korea Herald that production was giving an additional boost to the Sorento's propects because additional consumers were now considering the vehicle now it was being produced in the US.

In addition, the company is hoping to give its vehicles an additional edge with UVO, a system that allows media devices brought into the vehicle using voice commands developed by Microsoft.

"UVO is exclusive to Kia vehicles, and UVO will be installed in the Sorento later this summer and the Sportage, and other vehicles that undergo significant changes later on," KMA marketing head Michael Sprague said.

He added that the system will give Kia vehicles an advantage similar in scale to Ford's gain through the SYNC in-car communications and entertainment system, saying that the system enabled Ford to go from "a technology lagger to a technology leader" within months.

"Drivers are bringing in more and more technology into their vehicles and UVO allows them to use such devices as cell phones and PDAs."