Kia Motors Europe says its goal remains on course to sell half a million units, but is declining to put a precise date on when this will be achieved.

The South Korean automaker is bucking a decidedly gloomy sales position in Europe, with most vehicle manufacturers recording significant falls as consumers retrench given the dire economic conditions.

“The old continent is in trouble,” KIA Motors Europe vice president marketing and product line, Benny Oeyen, said at the automaker’s event in Barcelona to promote its upgraded product range.

“Unfortunately, the total market is down 7.1% – three million cars have evaporated in this economic crisis [but] we are now the fastest-growing mainstream brand in Europe.

“It is not because there is a thunderstorm we change our strategy – our goal remains 500,000 units but we can’t predict when this will happen. Is it 2016 or 2017? I am not a fortune teller – it will take some time before the economy is back on track in Europe.”

Part of Kia Europe ‘s success added Oeyen, was due to the Korean operation deploying new technologies in existing cars such as the Optima hybrid electric vehicle, which will also enjoy the automaker’s seven-year warranty.

“There is a strong demand for green technology – this is a segment that is moving,” he said. “It is the first gasoline hybrid in the D-segment in Europe. It is a bridge to our up-coming Kia electric vehicles.

“The EV will be built for the summer of 2014 [and] will be based on the new Kia Soul.”

Kia took the occasion in Barcelona to highlight the changes to its new Sorento variant, showcasing the interior upgrade, standard seven seats and all-wheel drive with 2.2L turbo-diesel engine.

The revamped Sorento – undergoing its revision three years after entry to market – will be available for customers to pick up in dealerships from December this year.

Kia Motors UK president and CEO, Paul Philpott, also revealed first half British sales of 33,478 units compared to 31,324 in 2008.

Third quarter UK sales were up 21%, while the manufacturer is predicting a record annual figure of 65,000 models for Britain, giving the Korean company a 3.3% market share.