KIA‘s new Soul supermini, on sale from February, will boost the company’s 2009 UK sales to around 33,000, a respectable increase from the 31,500 it will sell this year, managing director Paul Philpott said.


Total Kia sales here this year will be up about 7% on the 29,400 cars sold in 2007 – and it could have been more if supply of the Picanto and Rio hadn’t been restricted.


Market share has grown from 1.25% last year to 1.5% in 2008 and Philpott is targeting a 3% share of the retail market by 2012 which would put Kia among the top 10 brands.


His aspirations will be helped by cars like the Soul which will sell around 5,000 in a full year; an MPV derivative is also in the pipeline.


“Supply and stock management of the car will be important. I want to create demand,” he said.


Prices will be announced next month but Philpott suggested the Soul, available with 1.6 litre petrol or diesel engines, would sell for somewhere between “under GBP11,000 and up to GBP14,000.”


It’s closest rival at the moment is the Suzuki SX4 and Philpott reckoned the Korean-built Soul would have a fairly clear run until Nissan launches the Cube towards the end of 2009 and Toyota‘s Urban Cruiser arrives after that, along with a flurry of other rivals.


Soul will be the ninth car in the Kia UK range and Philpott said the excitement around the car is helping attract new dealers to the network and makes him confident enough to maintain his GBP15m advertising budget in 2009.


With the cost of advertising expected to fall by as much as 6% according to some industry estimates, not cutting the budget will actually boost Kia’s spending power.


Philpott is optimistic about next year and reckons a total UK market of around 1.9m is still possible. “It will be somewhere between 1.8 and 1.9m,” is his estimate.


Dealers are positive and the franchise is making money. “It’s not where we want it to be but it is in profit,” he says. The current network is 135, with 10 joining early in 2009 and another 10 by the end of the year.


Some of the expansion comes from existing dealers who want to add a second or third showroom while others want to add Kia to their portfolio.