Barely a year after revealing a major update for the Cadenza line, Kia now says it’s pulling the sedan from its line-up, along with what had been the brand flagship, the K900.
The South Korean carmaker joins a growing legion of manufacturers retreating from passenger cars or pulling out entirely. Just a few weeks ago, Volkswagen confirmed that it will stop selling the standard Golf model in the U.S., though the Golf R and GTI variants will remain in showrooms – for now.
“An important part of our growth as a brand is our ability to understand market conditions and recognize our customers’ needs,” Kia said in a statement. “To that end, as the auto industry shifts its focus from full-size sedans to SUVs … the K900 and Cadenza will be discontinued for the 2021 model year.”
The sales numbers show the cuts were inevitable
A quick look at the latest sales numbers makes it easy to understand Kia’s decision. Though the automaker had an otherwise solid January, overall U.S. sales up 11% compared to the year-prior period, Cadenza sales plunged a painful 72%, to just 55 of the sedans. The K900 was off 23%, dealers delivering a mere 20 of them last month.
The automaker made it clear that it’s staying in the passenger car market. And some models did notably better in January. The newly launched midsize K5 generated 5,443 sales. But that’s likely still a disappointment for the brand considering it is a completely new replacement for the old Optima. The older sedan generated 6,177 sales in January 2020.
The only two passenger cars that had any traction for Kia last month were the Forte, with sales of 7,021, up 12% year-over-year, and the Rio, up 6% at 1,733.
SUVs dominate Kia’s sales
There were a couple weak numbers in the Kia SUV line-up, the Sportage down 12%, for example. But the big Telluride – voted North American Utility Vehicle of the Year in January 2020, saw a 35% increase in demand while the automaker delivered 4,992 of the all-new Seltos, its entry-level SUV.
The question Is whether Kia might pull even more of its passenger car lines during the next several years, including the Stinger and Niro, though they appear to be secure for now.
Of course, Kia is by no means alone. Of the roughly two dozen familiar nameplates that were culled for 2020, only a couple crossovers were on the list. And, in the case of the Lincoln MKT it was replaced by the newer, more stylish Aviator.
Most automakers move to pare back sedans, coupes and sports cars
The Fiat 500L and Dodge Journey are the only utility vehicles that faded out for 2021 – unless you count the Honda Fit which is being replaced by the HR-V.
Ford has effectively abandoned the passenger car segment but for the Mustang – and the all-electric Mustang Mach-E adopted a crossover body style. The automaker’s recently dropped Fusion sedan may stage a return, but would itself migrate to a utility vehicle design.
Asian imports and European luxury brands say they remain committed to passenger cars but with Cox Automotive analysts recently forecasting that sedans, coupes and sports cars could see their share of the American market dip below 20% this year, few would be surprised if even more familiar models soon vanish.