The current-generation Kia Optima has struggled in the medium car segment since its local launch in 2011.
Last year (2014) the Optima managed 1274 sales in Australia, which meant it was outsold by the Ford Mondeo, Holden Malibu, Honda Accord, Hyundai i40, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, Skoda Octavia, Volkswagen Passat as well as the unbeatable Toyota Camry.
In 2013, the Optima managed a better 1823 sales, but still not enough to beat its closest rivals in a segment that shrunk by almost 15 percent in the following year.
So far in 2015, Kia Optima sales have fallen a further 15 percent (Jan-Feb), with the medium car segment shrinking an additional three percent over its already low base in 2014.
Speaking to CarAdvice on the eve of the new Optima’s unveiling in New York, Kia Australia’s public relations chief Kevin Hepworth admitted the Optima hasn’t done as well as the South Korean company had hoped.
“Optima has never been a big-selling vehicle, it has probably been, to be fair, less than we had hoped for,” Hepworth said.
“It has picked up in the last 12 to 18 months in the fleet market, [there’s] a lot more interest there.”
Nonetheless, Kia remains optimistic that the new Optima will help lift sales.
“I would hope that the new car, [which] is a generational change, it’s higher quality, it’ll have new suspension, new engines… I would expect it to improve on whatever it’s doing now.”
Kia Australia believes that the Optima’s unique selling point remains its feature-packed and affordable packaging as well as its distinguished looks.
“It has been and will remain the best looking and most affordable family sedan in the market place. It has got terrific value, always has had.”
Hepworth believes the changing face of Kia will help the new model gain a stronger foothold in the market.
“When the original Optima was launched, it just ran into this badge snobbery barrier that said ‘who is going to pay $35,000 for a Kia?’ Well, people now do.”
Pricing and local specification of the new car remains unconfirmed, however it’s expected to be priced very competitively against the likes of the new Hyundai Sonata.