Closing the year amid fuel-economy miscalculations, strong sales and two new reveals, a top sales manager says consumers should keep their eyes peeled at future auto shows.
Short supply of popular models hurting U.S. market-share gains.
LOS ANGELES – A large car sold in Korea and Europe may be coming to the U.S. market, a top Kia Motors America executive hints on the sidelines of the auto show here.
The Korean auto maker up to now has been undecided about re-entering the segment.
Asked about the Korean K7 and K9 fullsize luxury cars, Tom Loveless, Kia’s U.S. vice president of U.S. sales, tells WardsAuto, “I suggest you come to some of our future shows,” adding there may be something in store at January’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Kia has not had a fullsize luxury car in the North American market since the Amanti departed in 2010. The K9 shares a platform with theEquus, which arrived here in 2010, while the K7 replaced the Amanti in other markets outside the U.S.
The auto maker has been sitting it out in the U.S. while the two luxury cars have been on sale in other markets for a year or more, preferring to wait to establish the Optima midsize sedan as a credible entrant, Michael Sprague, KMA vice president-marketing, told WardsAuto last year.
Officials appeared ready to pull the trigger on the K9 earlier this year, but when the car went on sale in Korea in the spring, the parent company said it would not be coming to North America.
For now, Kia unveils its next-generation Sorento SUV and Forte compact here, which Loveless says will continue to add to the auto maker’s momentum in the U.S. market.
“We’ve already beat 500,000 (units cumulatively),” Loveless says, expressing confidence that November’s sales will push Kia past the half-million mark it long has sought. WardsAuto data shows the auto maker delivered 477,366 units in the U.S. through October.
“When we finish November and move on in December, we think the numbers will be pretty big. Obviously, it’ll be the best-ever for Kia. We’ve had 27 months of record-breaking sales in a row. You have to go back to August 2010 for when we didn’t break a record.”
But while sales are robust, Kia has been slow to gain market share, climbing from 3.1% in 2010 to 3.8% in 2011, but rising only 0.1% this year.
“The industry is much bigger than it was, so from a purely volume standpoint we’re going to be substantially higher than where we were a year ago,” Loveless says. “Some of the vehicles we have in our lineup, the Soul for example, are (among) the hottest vehicles in our industry, with a days’ supply all year of under 20 days.
“Certainly some of our competitors have been extremely aggressive in getting back into the market, but this marks the 18th consecutive year we’ve had market-share growth. We view that as terrific and certainly nothing to apologize for.”
Along with itsaffiliate, Kia still is calculating the number of debit cards offered to consumers as compensation for misstating fuel-economy claims on window stickers. The auto makers’ U.S. units say the faulty figures were arrived at in Korea. About 900,000 U.S. and 172,000 Canadian drivers are affected.
“We’re communicating with all our customers right now, so we’re in the early stages,” Loveless says. “We’ve replaced the Monroney labels (listing fuel-efficiency) at the dealerships. And we’re communicating with the dealers.
“We’ve tried to be transparent, and we have a website (that) answers a lot of questions. He adds, “The general feel we’ve heard from the customers so far is that they appreciate the fact we’ve gone out and extended this offer to them.”