After setting a major sales record in 2015 and a double-digit increase in sales during February, Kia is fortifying its product portfolio and using an aggressive marketing campaign to underscore that it is a much different company than it was when it first arrived in the U.S. back in the 1990s.
Last year, Kia sold more than 600,000 vehicles for the first time, Michael Sprague, Kia’s chief operating officer, said this week during a preview for the new 2017 Kia Sportage. Kia’s 13% sales jump last month was based on solid sales across the brand’s product line.
Kia also kicked off the advertising for the new version of the Optima during February with a well-received Super Bowl ad that really jump-started sales.
The Super Bowl spot was only part of the news Kia made during the first two months of the year as it rolled out innovations and vehicles during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January unveiling a dedicated autonomous driving team and other efforts centered on the connected car experience.
The South Korean automaker also showed off a series of new concept vehicles at auto shows in Detroit – where it debuted the Telluride concept vehicle and the Forte 5 – and Chicago where it showed off the 2017 Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle and the hybrid version of the Optima.
Besides the steady growth of sales – Kia has posted 10 consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases – the overall perception of the brand continues to improve, Sprague said. “Companies thrive and re-invent themselves right before our eyes.” he said.
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Kia now ranks second in J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey and it has earned excellent marks from Consumer Reports’ annual study of reliability, ranking sixth overall. ALG, the Automotive Leasing Guide, also said Kia ranks sixth among automotive brands in retained value, noted Sprague.
“We’re constantly blazing new paths,” said Sprague, who noted Kia can offer consumers strong, innovative technology as well as quality and reliability.
Next summer, Kia plans to open its second North American plant in Mexico. The new plant will take on the job of building the updated version of the Kia Forte.
Kia is now preparing to replace one of its core vehicles, the Sportage, which is beginning to trickle into dealerships. The advertising campaign will kick off in April, said Sprague. The fourth generation Sportage, which is Kia’s oldest nameplate, was designed at the company’s studio in Frankfurt, Germany, under the direction of Peter Schreyer, president of the Hyundai Motor Group design office.
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The 2017 Sportage is stiffer and more spacious than its predecessor and comes to market with advanced driver assistance technologies, significant suspension and steering improvements and an optional intelligent, all-wheel-drive system.
Sprague noted that sales of compact CUVs are on a sharply upward trajectory and Kia sold approximately 54,000 last year, growing by 25%. But while he declined to provide a sales target, he did predict sales of the Sportage will increase this year.
“We were capacity constrained last year,” he said. But Kia is now planning to show more Sportages to the U.S. thanks to a change in allocations that required moving vehicles once destined to the Middle East and Russia to the U.S.
Overall, all-new 2017 Sportage hits the sweet spot with expressive, distinctive styling and enough versatility to handle even the most multifaceted active lifestyle, said Orth Kendrick, vice president, product planning KMA.
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“The Sportage combines distinctly European and sporty styling with thoughtful design and functionality, including innovative packaging, premium materials, a turbocharged engine and surprising features,” Kendrick added.