2018 Kia Optima
2017 Kia Soul Photo: Supplied

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Kez Casey | Jan, 22 2018 | 0 Comments

Fresh from recording its best-ever sales performance in Australia, Kia’s local arm still sees the potential in its slower selling offerings and will keep them in showrooms alongside fast-moving SUVs and small cars.

At a conference in Melbourne held during the Australian Open tennis, of which Kia is a major sponsor, Kia Australia Chief Operating Officer Damien Meredith committed to keeping the brand’s current range intact.

Expect the Optima to be repositioned though as it feels the pressure from Kia’s flagship Stinger at the top of the range, with the yet-to-arrive Cerato small sedan set to grow in size and challenge the Optima from below.

“It’s not as easy as just repricing the car and de-speccing it and things like that. We’ve got to be a little bit smarter than that, it’s just another challenge.” Meredith told journalists.

“Personally, and I think the company, would like to see it continue and we’ve got to make it successful.”

“I think that there’s a lot of above-the-line activity that we can do in regards to finance offers, etcetera, to help it along. So I think if we can look at those the whole spectrum of things to get it to work, that’s what we’ll do.”

Over the course of 2017, Optima sales have dropped by 46.5 percent with 757 sales for the year putting Kia’s mid-sizer behind cars like the Skoda Octavia, Hyundai i40 and Sonata, and even the wagon-only Subaru Levorg.

The story for the Soul is a different one however with sales on the rise. However, despite a 183 percent improvement in sales performance, total units for 2017 tallied a meagre 323 cars.

Soul’s position as a image leader within Kia Motor Corporation’s (KMC) global portfolio, particularly based off the model’s American success where it was the company’s best-seller in 2016 with 145,768 sales, mean the Soul has something of a revered position within the Korean head office.

“If KMC want a specific vehicle to be a global vehicle, well its a global vehicle.” Meredith explained when asked if the Soul could disappear from the Australian range as the next-generation car arrives.

When asked if the Soul would be better positioned as a small SUV rather than a boxy-but-versatile hatch to help fill a gap within Kia’s local range, Mr Meredith downplayed the chances.

“You can only look at the performance of Soul to acknowledge that it’s probably not the type of product that our market is favouring for a small SUV.” He said.

“They [buyers] don't see it as a small SUV, they just see it as a box-type design passenger vehicle which is unfortunate because it has very similar dimensions and practicality but that’s not how our market sees it.”

“I don’t think there’s any shape, whether it be Skoda or whether it be Toyota, where it’s worked in Australia. It just doesn't seem to resonate at all.” Mr Meredith said of hatches and SUVs with a square rear section, referencing the Toyota Rukus and Skoda Yeti.

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