Above: the Australia-bound Pro_Cee'd GT, Kia's next turbocharged offering.
Kia's styling revolution, led by former Audi designer Peter Schreyer, is helping to win points with Australian buyers, the brand's local marketing boss claims.
Speaking with TMR at the Australian launch of the new Cerato Koup Turbo, Kia's General Manager of Marketing, Steve Watt, said the company's reputation and image have grown since the first Koup arrived.
"When we look back to when we launched the first Cerato Koup, our challenge was to get people to notice us and our brand," Watt said.
"Between then and now, our data show that our reputation has lifted more than twenty percent, and we're now recognised as a stylish brand - that's had a 47 percent lift."
Watt credited the growth to what he called breakthrough product, highlighting the new models that have come through under design chief Peter Schreyer.
He said that, during the Australian tuning program for the first Koup, having a red example parked each day in the home driveway offered an insight into the brand's improving image.
"These development cars typically have all the badges taped over. Every day the tape was ripped off that car. People wanted to know what it was," Watt said.
Watt also said that the Australian operation has shown the fastest growth of any Kia subsidiary. "That's an amazing thing, considering that we only entered the Australian market in 2006."
He added that while Kia is not yet 'a destination brand', the carmaker sees future success coming, in part, from the appeal of "a brand that your parents didn't drive".
"There's an appetite to accept Kia as a brand that's well on the move and a brand that's producing quality products. I think we've crested the hill as far as reputation goes. And we're still going," Watt said.
He also left the door open for a roadgoing version of the brilliant Track'ster Concept car.
Asked whether it is frustrating to see a growing number of desirable and popular concepts not transitioning to production, he said that Kia is focused on projects that are less concept and more preview.
"I think saying 'not built' is maybe pigeon-holing us with a number of other manufacturers. If it's been shown and spoken about, then there's a good chance that car is under high consideration for production," Watt said.
"The more positive noise that surrounds it reinforces its chance of coming to market."
He added that Schreyer has been a positive force on the carmaker's direction, consistently pushing for improvement.
"It never ceases to amaze me how hard [design chief] Peter Schreyer pushes his team. We were looking at the next generation Optima and there's a full-on debate; 'is that car pushing it hard enough? Is that car going to have the same impact as the current Optima?'
"I think that, as hard as they push themselves, the more we'll see those types of cars."
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