Korean manufacturer celebrates milestone 30 years after its local introduction

Kia Australia is celebrating 500,000 sales Down Under, three decades after the first Kia-badged cars landed here under a private import deal.

In 1988, just 60 people bought a 'Kia' – a jeep model developed off the Korean Army's car and sold there as the Asia Rocsta. In its first run here, privately imported, today's Kia Australia insists it wore a Kia badge. A tenuous link to the Kia of today, certainly, grabbing at some history where it can get it. And then there's Asia Motors...

By 1998, local sales had increased by then to 12,524, and 2008 saw cumulative sales Down Under reach 180,829. After another earlier go at Australian distribution under Neville Crichton, the Kia brand was finally selling as the operation we know today in 2006.

Fast forward to 2018, and Kia Motors Australia is on track for another record sales year, posting 10.4 per cent growth year-to-date (YTD) as of the end of May.

"Like anything new, it took a while to gain traction in Australia but the acceptance of the brand – and the accompanying acceleration of sales – over the past decade has been quite amazing," said Damien Meredith, CEO of Kia Australia.

"There is no reason why that growth will not continue and the Magic Million is just over the horizon."

"There is nothing mystical about it, if you build your brand on strong foundations and take care of your customers by treating them with honesty and respect, you are a long way down the road to success, Meredith added.

Key drivers of Kia's recent success in Australia have been the Cerato small car and the Sportage medium SUV, both of which consistently post monthly registrations in excess of 1000 units.

The Carnival people mover and Picanto micro car don't quite achieve the same volume, meanwhile, but continue to top their respective segments.

By comparison, parent company Hyundai has sold 1,590,213 vehicles locally since 1987, and took 18 years and four months to reach the 500,000 units milestone Down Under (2005).


UPDATE: An earlier version of this story was unclear in describing the history of the Kia badge in Australia. The story has been revised to touch on earlier distribution details.