Len Hunt: Kia needs an American halo car to generate showroom traffic.
"If you look at mid-America, places like Indiana, places that aren't the image markets, this is where Kia can make huge advances," Kia America COO Len Hunt said here last week.
Kia also has its eye on customers who might not even be considering a new car because they have credit problems: "Sixty percent of Americans have credit issues, yet they're not villains," he said.
Through October, Kia sold 236,993 units, a 4.6 percent increase over the comparable period last year.
Hunt is still taking measure of Kia, which he joined on Oct. 7. He had been executive vice president of Volkswagen of America Inc.
Hunt said the introduction of six new or face-lifted products in 2006 will help drive Kia's growth. But the company still needs a halo car to help generate showroom traffic, he said, and none is on the drawing boards.
Kia's growth will come without any significant expansion of the dealer network, he said. Of the company's 650 dealerships, about 350 are exclusives, he said.
Hunt said he hopes Kia will build a manufacturing plant in the United States, although there are no plans to do so. Hunt said 300,000 units is the critical mass for a car manufacturer to consider building a factory.
Hunt said Kia has invested $250 million in its North American properties, including a headquarters in Irvine, Calif., a proving ground in Mojave, Calif., and an r&d center in Ann Arbor, Mich.
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