Kia's new European sales and marketing boss says the Korean carmaker is capable of selling 300,000 cars in Europe by the end of 2005.
'Last year Kia sold nearly 90,000 cars in Europe and is on target to sell 100,000 cars in 2002,' said Jean-Charles Lievens, who was appointed vice president, sales, marketing and network operations for Kia Motors in Europe last month.
'We are focusing on key European markets to make progress toward achieving a sales potential of 300,000 cars by mid-decade.'
Lievens, 54, is a French national with almost 30 years' experience in the auto industry. He was previously commercial director for Toyota Motor Europe. Lievens has also held senior sales, marketing and distribution roles at Volkswagen and Opel.
Improving Kia's European distribution network is key to Lievens' ambitions.
'We must build on strengths and eliminate weaknesses,' he said. 'Kia has a relatively poor coverage in some major cities in the main European markets. This provides a clear opportunity.'
Lievens, who is based in Frankfurt, believes the changes in Europe's car distribution rules due this October could benefit Kia.
'There may be greater opportunities for franchises able to demonstrate a stronger customer orientation and greater flexibility in the marketplace,' he said. 'As a less well-known brand, you have to be that bit better than your competitors.'
Kia is expanding its lineup with a new range of products 'which have been designed from the outset for Europe,' said Lievens. 'This will certainly attract new dealers as well as providing the chance for existing dealers to grow with the brand.'
Due this year are a new Carens compact minivan and the Sorento premium sport-utility. A new supermini is set for introduction in 2004.
'Kia has succeeded in recent years without a small car,' said Lievens. The smallest car in Kia's current range is the Rio, which is about the size of a Ford Focus. 'Our new small car will be on a unique platform but will most probably share some components with [parent company] Hyundai.'
Kia is also capitalizing on Hyundai's expertise in diesel engines.
'We have access to a modern range of common-rail diesel engines through Hyundai,' said Lievens.
The new Carens will be fitted with a 2.0-liter common-rail diesel, and the Sorento will gain a bigger 2.5-liter common-rail turbodiesel.
Lievens said: 'Other models will be fitted with diesels in line with European demand.'