THE UK new car market may have slammed into reverse over the past 18 months but Kia UK is bucking the trend and on course to meet its 90,000 sales target this year.
This is despite the post-pandemic showroom blues followed by supply problems caused by the global shortage of semi-conductors, and fleet sales have been key to keeping the numbers up.
At one point, however, meeting the 2021 sales target looked like a lost cause. Having written off all predictions for 2020 when the pandemic struck, Q1 for this year ended 7,000 vehicles behind the curve according to Sales Director Steve Hicks.
He said: “Since then we have managed to sell through the problems with the help of out very strong dealer network and we are back on course to meet our 90,000 target this year and upwards to 95,000 in 2022. We have a five year plan that increases sales by 5,000 a year to reach 120,000.
“We have kept in touch with our customers and managed a difficult supply chain – we don’t have huge supplies, but we do have vehicles, and our fleet customers have stayed with us. Our lead times are a bit longer than we would like and we probably need to see how we communicate this better to our customers.”
Kia UK’s Head of Fleet and Remarketing John Hargreaves said that fleet had remained strong with sales shifting from 52-48 to 60-40 in favour of fleet over retail sales equating to around 50,000 vehicles this year.
“We have been able to manage the supply chain very well but we also have a very good product and powertrain line-up offering petrol, diesel, hybrid, PHEV and full electric. Our dealers are all now fleet focused and 30 of our 190-string network are business specialists.”
One important model arriving in the showrooms in December and January is the all now Kia Sportage, the brand’s largest-selling fleet model in the UK and it will be joined later in 2022 by hybrid and PHEV versions bringing new BiK benefits.
Despite the arrival of upscale models like the Stinger and EV6, Hicks and Hargreaves agreed that Kia remains a mainstream brand rather than consciously moving upmarket.
Hicks said: “Who would have thought a few years ago that we would be selling a car with a £60,000 price tag. It’s happened, but at the other end of the scale we still have Picanto for £10,000 and that is key for the brand – having a wide choice of products and powertrains.”
Electric vehicles are what the industry is talking about now and Kia has full EV versions of its Soul and Niro while the new EV6 comes with an electric powertrain only.
Hicks added: “EV6 is probably a sign of things to come with an EV5, 4 , 3, 2 and right down to a Picanto size EV1. But that’s something for the future.”
Kia’s dealers are also going through change as they switch to the latest corporate identity and Hicks said he wanted them to become advisors rather than just selling cars, adding: “The network is happy to go with us on this as we are recognised as one of the best franchises to have and they are making money.”
“Online sales around the industry have been increasing but we want people in the showrooms. They may have been online to decide what they like, but we want to take the time to explain whether it’s what they need. Customers can go and do the paperwork online, but we want to give them the best value for their time in the showroom.”