The pieces in the Kia jigsaw are coming together to present a clear picture of the brand and its products, Paul Philpott, one month into his new role as head of the South Korean company’s European operations, told just-auto in Frankfurt.

He said the aim is to raise European sales to between 350,000 and 400,000 within the next few years, up from 225,000 last year and an expected 240,000 this year.

“The pieces of the jigsaw have been coming together for us in Europe over the last three or four years with the launch of manufacturing in Slovakia, the production of the Ceed, the appointment of Peter Schreyer as head of design and extended warranties on the back of excellent quality control.

“The brand image is rising rapidly and that has a knock-on effect right through the business. It means we, as a company, can now attract the best people to work for us, good dealers now want to take on the franchise and, of course, customers want to buy the products.”

Despite the economic downturn, sales are holding steady although Philpott said there were problem areas which need addressing. “We haven’t yet got the business right everywhere. Spain has been a problem, largely because the market has been severely depressed but also because Kia got itself into difficulties which could have been avoided – wrong stock, wrong place, wrong time.

“But we have just appointed a new managing director in Spain and we expect that market to improve for us quite quickly.”

Philpott said that although scrappage incentives have helped sales around Europe, Kia had not based its business plan around such schemes continuing. “The tap can be turned off at any time, as it has in Germany. Incentive schemes cannot go on forever and we have to plan for life without them.”