Kia, the only brand inside the Top 10 to post a sales gain in 2019 – the weakest market in eight years – believes there is still room to grow in 2020 for companies that have cars buyers want at prices they're prepared to pay.
Kia believes the recently-released Seltos city-SUV (pictured below) will help deliver another record year for the brand, but promises to not be complacent when it comes to the competition or the rest of its model range.
"We think we can probably grow between four and five percent this year," said Damien Meredith, Kia Australia Chief Operating Officer. "Thanks to a full year of Seltos – that product is going to help us there."
Against the odds, Kia was able to increase its sales last year even though only one of its top five sellers was an SUV.
"That is significant, I think," said Meredith. "We believe we will hold onto small passenger car sales very well, maybe a little dip there, but we think we can go close to 64,000 or 65,000 cars (overall) this year."
Despite other Top 10 brands experimenting with longer warranties during special promotions, none have yet made the seven-year offer permanent. Kia was first to the market with its seven-year coverage – a factor that, it says, has helped drive sales – and is now considering an even longer warranty to stay ahead of the competition.
"We’ll always look at 10 years," said Meredith. "Apart from MG and SsangYong, other manufacturers have used (seven year warranty) as a marketing tool. No one has gone and said, 'we’re seven years'. They have come in and out. Even Hyundai has been in and out. I don’t see any value in that."
It's six years since Kia moved to a full, seven-year warranty and Meredith wasn't sure Kia would have the space to itself for very long either. "October 2014 we madethat move to a seven-year warranty," Meredith said. "And I'm really surprised that no other manufacturer has done it. I thought at the time we might get three months clear air with it. And what is it? Six years later, and no one else has come on board."
The tail end of 2020 looks like being another strong period for Kia with the arrival of a new pint-sized SUV, the Stonic (pictured below), that slots in below the Kia Seltos.
"We'll have Stonic last quarter of this year obviously," said Meredith. "Seltos supply is tight, and that might have affected some sales. In our planning, we kept a price plateau for it, which wasn’t affected with Cerato below it and Sportage above. We thought there might be a small effect on Cerato sales, but there was none, and there’s only been a 10 percent effect on Sportage."
There's no doubt that – especially with the sales success of the likes of Mazda's CX-3 – the city SUV segment continues to be popular with Australian buyers and Kia is pretty enthusiastic about getting into the fight for sales.
Roland Rivera, General Manager for Kia Product, is looking forward to the arrival of Stonic. "There is an emerging light SUV segment and we see a real opportunity to take a slice of it," said Rivero. "It shares a platform with Rio, and is dimensionally similar to a Mazda CX-3. Positioning it between Cerato and Seltos, is the sweet spot as we see it."