Kia Australia’s recently appointed chief operating officer Damien Meredith says the company is about to embark on a big push to boost what it considers unacceptably low sales of the Cerato small car.
Expanding on Kia’s ambitious plan to almost double its market share in Australia to five per cent before the end of the decade, Mr Meredith singled out the under-performing, 15-month-old Cerato sedan and hatch, as well as the Koup derivative, as the key to making the dream a reality.
So far in 2014, Kia has sold 3447 Cerato sedan and hatch models, up 16 per cent compared with last year but still only enough for a 3.3 per cent share of Australia’s largest (in terms of sales) segment. Toyota and Mazda regularly sell more Corollas and 3s in one month than Kia’s January-June Cerato figure.
The bold mission laid down to Kia’s 122-strong Australian dealer network is to take the Cerato from 11th in segment sales to fifth within three years. At present, the Holden Cruze occupies this position with 9407 sales, ahead of the Ford Focus on 8852.
Also sitting in Kia’s path up the totem pole are the Nissan Pulsar (5055), Honda Civic (4666), Mitsubishi Lancer (4388) and Hyundai Elantra (4352). Above all of these, and beyond where Kia is aiming, are the Mazda3 (22,524), Corolla (22,166), Hyundai i30 (15,692) and Volkswagen Golf (10,524).
The target is part of Kia’s aim to be a top-five player in all segments it competes, and number one in people-movers with the next-generation Carnival, within three years. On current figures, this would take its annual sales from about 30,000 annual sales all-up to about 51,000.
Meredith says the bold plan could be achieved with a greater spread of dedicated and largely youthful-focused Cerato marketing, emphasising the car’s sharp value, design and “incredibly important” Australian-specific tuning.
A new entry-level 1.6-litre price-leader aimed at fleets and budget-conscious private buyers is also on the wishlist, as is a plan to better leverage Kia’s wide-ranging corporate sponsorships with events such as the Australian Open tennis championship.
Kia’s proposed seven-year warranty would also put the brand’s wares on the public map.
Mission number one, says Meredith, is just to put the Cerato name on the public radar — a hard task in such a crowded segment dominated by so many strong brand names.
“If we asked 10 people outside ‘what’s a Cerato?’, we might get one that knows what a Cerato is,” Meredith said.
“What we have to do now is we have to work harder at getting the models that compete in the big segments to the public, they’ve got to understand what’s in the car, how they’re designed and their value.
“We have to lift Cerato sales pretty quickly. Number 11 is basically not acceptable, and that’s our fault because we haven’t given it the credence it deserves in terms of its quality, its design and look, and its pricing, so we will over the next couple of months have a Cerato communication plan which will be separate from our other retail and product plans.”
“In a perfect world if we get the 1.6 and communication bites, and we get traction with sales, if we get from number 11 to number five, and we hold onto our position in other areas, we have 45,000 cars straight away (it is on track for about 30,000 total deliveries this year).
“Cerato is the key,” he said.
Kia’s new model launch cycle over the next nine months looks busy, with an updated Rio here by the end of 2014 and the all-new Sorento and Carnival here in early 2015.