The newly revealed Kia Optima Sportswagon is looking less likely to make an Australian debut than had previously been hoped.
The Sportswagon was unveiled in February, after having first been previewed as the hot Sportspace concept around this time last year.
In the weeks after the Sportspace’s unveiling, Kia Australia had indicated it would be very keen on a production version. Speaking with CarAdvice in March last year, communications manager Kevin Hepworth said the new wagon was considered “a very strong chance” for a local launch.
But, while the company continues to investigate the case for a mid-sized wagon in its local line-up, there remains concern that the Optima Sportswagon would only take sales from the new Sorento SUV, rather than add any overall volume.
“We hadn’t yet launched [the new] Sorento and couldn’t know for sure that it was going to do as well has it has, and the [final production-ready] Sportswagon had also not been revealed at the time,” Hepworth told CarAdvice at this week’s Geneva motor show, referring to his earlier comments.
“The danger is that you can cannibalise your SUV range. You need to find extra sales, not just conversion sales from somewhere you’re already selling. And, certainly, SUVs are an easier sell at the moment,” Hepworth said.
He added that, in general, the mid-sized car market is not performing. “Optima is doing better than it was, but it’s still not one of our major sellers. Cerato, Rio, Sportage were the three big sellers last month.”
“Different ideas of business plans, different sizes of market share… you’d have to ask them what they see in it, what the big benefit is,” Hepworth said.
With an overall 3.4 per cent market share, a mid-sized wagon is a riskier proposition for Kia than for Mazda, which claims a 10.5 per cent share of the national new car market. Likewise, Ford holds a stronger 6.0 per cent share. Brands like that “can afford to get it wrong once or twice”, Hepworth said.
Kia’s Australia position is strengthening, however, with its year-to-date 3.4 per cent market share an improvement on the 2.9 per cent the car maker held at this time last year. The small Cerato saw a 40 per cent growth in February with 905 sales (up from 643), while the Rio climbed 46 per cent to 600 sales in February (up from 411 in February 2015).
If Kia Australia can keep that slow-but-steady improvement moving, a risky offering or two could prove more appealing for the brand in the future.