Kia Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith boldly claimed the brand is aiming to sell 50,000 units within the next four or five years, and there are segments of the market that are ripe for growth that Kia will target - namely the small SUV area.
That would require Kia Australia to jump up from its current annual sales which, if it tracks true to its sales figures to June this year, should pan out at about 34,000 units.
It also means the brand will need to increase its market share from its current 2.9 per cent to about 5.0 per cent. Kia’s sales so far in 2015 are up 5.8 per cent, and Meredith knows the brand has its work cut out.
“We’ve still got a long, long way to go,” Meredith said.
“We’re still a sub-three per cent player in the Australian market. Can you be a respectable three per cent player in the Australian market? You probably can, if you’re profitable and the dealers are profitable and you’ve got great customer satisfaction and all those things.
“But we’ve still got a long way to go,” he said.
“And how far do we want to go? We’d like to sell 50,000 cars within the next four years, five years, and be a five per cent player that’s respected … and that’s got great customer satisfaction, strong profitability.
“We don’t want to be the richest, but we want our dealers to get a return on their investment in the brand. And we want to gain the benefits from our product, not from all those other aspects of price, price, price, price as what it was,” he said.
How will Kia get to that goal? It seems clear that product will be key. And one vehicle that Kia knows it desperately needs is a small SUV.
“If you haven’t got a mini/small SUV in play around that CX-3 mark [it’s a problem]– I’d love one of those,” he said.
Kia currently has a small SUV on sale in China, the KX3 (pictured above), but as with the Hyundai ix25, it’s made for China only. Sister brand Hyundai also has the Creta baby SUV (pictured below), which has also been ruled out for Australia – and it seems Kia has a twin version of that model in the works…
Meredith said that the brand would clearly like to have a global baby SUV if it is sellable in Australia.
“If it becomes available to certain markets, it would be high on our shopping list,” he said.
And if they can’t get it?
“We’ll keep on trying,” he said, despite admitting that his 50,000 car calculation includes the provision of a small SUV as part of the model mix.
“But you can’t use that as an excuse not to get the number. What you have to do, if you can’t get the product line-up that’s ideal, then you’ve got to change your strategy in those segments that you can get growth to drive that growth,” he said.
Kia has had a small high-riding model in its ranks for years now – the Soul. But Meredith was frank in his assessment of that slow-selling model, which has never managed to find many buyers here.
“I think the pricing strategy was wrong with Soul,” Meredith said of the Soul, which was recently pared back to just one model and variant (currently priced from $26,990 plus on-road costs).
Further, he indicated that the boxy shape hasn’t resonated with buyers.
“If you look at that type of shape of car, it hasn’t been that successful in Australia. When you go to an SUV type, it’s been quite successful,” he said.
Meredith said the Soul’s most successful market has been the US, where it starts from US $15,190 ($20,400).
“Its great success is in North America – it has been just a huge college vehicle, where kids go to college and mum and dad buy them a Soul. It’s been huge.