The past couple of years have seen the Kia brand stand out as a clear performer in the Australian new car market, with all but one model delivering marked sales growth.
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That one sore point is the Optima, a very good car in a dying segment, and now challenged from within by the four-cylinder Stinger liftback.

By the end of 2017, Optima sales had fallen 46.5 per cent over the previous year. That's 727 sales against 1358 by the end of 2016. Those numbers sit in stark contrast to the wider Kia range, which grew its market share in 2017 from 3.6 to 4.6 per cent.

In all, the Korean brand sold 54,737 vehicles last year, compared to 42,668 in 2016 - marking a huge 20.9 per cent increase.

Despite the Optima's fall, Kia Australia chief operations officer Damien Meredith says the mid-sized sedan isn't going anywhere.

"We're not going to get rid of the nameplate, we're going to keep the model. We've just got to work a little harder in regards to how we position it, what pricing strategy we use with it, and also more in regards to stronger financing offers, et cetera," Meredith says.

The company has "a few tools" to get the Optima back up to strength, Meredith says, but he admits the company has added to the model's woes by introducing the four-cylinder Stinger when it could have focused on a six-cylinder range.

An update to the Optima will arrive around the end of the first quarter and Meredith says that will be an opportunity for improvement. A new pricing strategy could be on the cards.

"My personal view is, I don't want to discount the car dramatically, but if we have to, to get to our 100 a month or 110 a month, we won't be scared to do it. We've just got to be thorough in how we treat Optima in the market against its competitors and how it sits in regards to Stinger."

Clearly, Meredith does not harbour hopes of the Optima ever challenging the Mazda 6, Volkswagen Passat or the historically unstoppable (although perhaps not in 2018) Toyota Camry. But, with 100 to 110 sales each month, the Optima would be rubbing shoulders with the Subaru Liberty, Hyundai Sonata and Ford Mondeo.

Still, even with the need to boost sales, the Optima isn't Meredith's only concern. The Stinger needs to be a success, too. And while the brand landed 504 sales in its first two months on sale - even before the full marketing campaign had kicked off - there is still the question of whether the engine-sharing four-cylinder Stinger and the Optima GT variants can co-exist.

"Another thing we've got to look at is, do you still have a [Optima] GT or do you go down to an S and Si model and take the GT away so there's focus on the 2.0-litre Stinger? There are all these things we've got to look at," Meredith says.

A strategy built around affordable, fleet-focused S and Si models could be just the ticket to wring another 20 to 40 monthly sales out of the Optima badge, with the four-cylinder Stinger models available to those prepared to spend a little more for size and - if it's what they're after - rear-wheel drive.

It'll be a handy kick for Meredith's 2018 sales goals, if it works, with 60,000 now the target.

"We'd like to do 60,000 cars this year. Obviously we'll get a little incremental growth from Stinger. We believe Cerato will give us a little more, and Picanto is growing for us and we believe there's some growth there. Some growth in SUVs, too. We think we can get to that 60,000 mark."

If the Optima improves, if the Stinger takes off, and if the wider range continues to grow its sales, 60,000 could prove to have been a very modest goal indeed.