Kia Australia is expecting its new Stinger performance car to reach 200 sales in October alone - its first, incomplete month on the market - despite the car's official marketing campaign still being months away from kickoff.
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Helping that hot start, according to chief operating officer Damien Meredith, is that the company has allocated a Stinger to each of its 127 dealers, giving the car clear exposure to potential buyers.

The company has so far promoted the car mostly through outdoor advertising and some online spots, but a proper campaign will coincide with the Stinger's appearance at January's Australian Open, of which Kia is the major sponsor.

Meredith is happy to admit, though, that a huge build-up in online coverage since the car's global unveiling in January, has played a part in getting orders in.

Of course, in the context of the overall market, 200 sales in a month would barely trouble the register in a market looking likely to hit 1.1 million sales by year's end. But, as a performance-oriented model, the Stinger represents a clear point of difference for Kia - not least because its rear-wheel-drive design will soon make it a singular offering in the sub-$70k segment.

Indeed, with the Aurion now gone and the locally-made Commodore days away from retirement, 200 sales in a month would comfortably make Kia's Stinger the best-selling large car (excluding SUVs) in Australia, below $70,000.

While the Commodore sold 2547 examples in September, and the Aurion managed 214, the nearest rival is Skoda's Superb, which hit 84 sales in that time.

Meredith believes the Stinger will easily go beyond 200, though, as Kia's production capacity frees up.

"We're still constrained by supply. My view is that we'll bounce around the 200-250 mark for probably the first 18 months of its lifecycle. After that, I think we'll build to 400-500 a month, over that period of time. But it's supply-driven at the moment," Meredith said.

"The reality is we've been doing this for a week, since the cars have arrived and been given out to the dealer network. It's early days, but it's going very well at the moment - as you'd expect it to. It's had an unbelievable build-up, thousands of people are talking about it. So we're relatively confident it'll build over the next three years to around 500 [sales per month]."

So far, and perhaps not surprising, the V6 model has been the most popular seller - making up around 90 per cent of orders - matched to the top-shelf GT trim grade. Meredith expects that to change, though.

"The GT is the most top seller at the moment, but I think that over time the Si will be by far the best seller. I think it's just got the right price and the right mix of specification, with the same output," he said. "So I think those factors will make it the best seller."

Meredith says the Stinger will be helped in Australia by the make-up of our market, and some very lucky circumstances with local manufacturing ending just as the Stinger arrives - circumstances he says were purely coincidental. ("I'd like to say we cleverly planned it this way, but…")

"What we were able to do in Australia was position it very differently to the rest of the world. Globally, it was always a BMW 4 Series competitor. In Australia, we took the position that there was a great opportunity with local manufacturing closing down and performance vehicles not being built anymore, so we think that was the best way forward - positioning it that way - and… so far, so good.

"You've gotta earn your stripes," he said. "We're pretty comfortable with where the car's positioned, and its price. We expect the car to sell to people who were in the market looking for a Commodore or Falcon."

A statistic that surprised Meredith, he says, is the breakdown of buyer types coming in to trade 'up' from another car.

"[The incoming buyer] is a third, a third, a third. A third are of Euros, which is a bit surprising, a third definitely the Holden and Ford [performance] type trade-ins, and a third from our own brand, moving up from specific cars and SUVs."

"Quite a few Sportages, actually, into that car," he adds.

The price is right, Meredith says, but it does leave a glaring overlap: the Optima. The $44,490 180kW/350Nm GT - although a top-shelf turbocharged model in the front-wheel-drive, mid-sized Optima range - is priced right where the Stinger kicks off with the $45,990 182kW/353Nm rear-wheel-drive, large 200S.

Would buyers still consider a high-end Optima model - away from the cheaper end, which starts a full $10,000 below the GT - when they could step into a larger, newer performance-focused liftback? The company is mindful of this potential cannibalisation.

"We'll monitor it very closely. I think what we would do is, if there was a buyer strike on Optima - in regard to the GT and other models - that we'd make a choice of repositioning or not bringing it (Optima GT). My personal view is I'd like to keep it and I'd like to see what happens with it. We won't be scared to reposition it, though.

Perhaps, then, a cheaper entry point for the Stinger could see the Optima dropped altogether.

"I don't think Stinger would be made cheaper (to replace Optima outright). What we would do is look carefully at that. If you look at, as an example: 200S Stinger and Optima GT, we'd just have to make a decision. Do they overlap too much? Time will tell, and we're looking at it.

An upgrade is due for the Optima at the end of the first quarter, in 2018, Meredith said. "That'll give us time to make a decision about what needs to be done."