LOS ANGELES -- With help from three new vehicles -- the Soul crossover, Forte sedan and Forte Koup -- Kia has been one of only three brands to increase sales this year.
But another major factor is the addition of 24 stores in the top 20 markets. Many have been added on the East Coast, and 18 are former Saturn stores, said Tom Loveless, sales vice president of Kia Motors America.
"Fifty percent of the sales in the U.S. come out of the top 20 markets, so we are looking to improve our positioning where we did not have access," Loveless said this month at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
"In the eastern region, our market share went up 80 percent from 2008 to 2009. That shows product and access to key locations made a difference. That will continue to be a priority in 2010."
Nationally, Kia's market share was 3 percent through November, compared with 2.1 percent over the same stretch last year. Unit sales are up 8 percent to 279,015 in a market down 24 percent.
Loveless isn't saying how many dealerships he wants to add in 2010, but he says the East Coast presents the biggest opportunity. Loveless also has his eyes on big West Coast cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.
"Those areas have been hard for Kia to get into," he said. "Where it strategically makes sense," the brand will get into those markets.
Adding stores could become easier as Saturn dealers wind down.
"There is no defined project to go after Saturn," Loveless said, "but they are in the right markets. We also got a few Hummer and Chrysler stores."
Loveless said the vast majority of Kia's 670 dealerships are in secondary or rural areas. He said some dealers who went into the new points are new to Kia. Others were existing Kia dealers who moved to the new locations.
"We're in a better position now for future growth than we've ever been," Loveless said.
The new Soul and Forte created buzz for the brand, and fresh product will continue next year.
A redesigned Sorento crossover will go on sale in January. Two of Kia's biggest sellers -- the mid-sized Optima sedan and the Sportage crossover -- get redesigns for the 2011 model year.
Loveless said the brand will get its first hybrid for the 2012 model year, and Kia may add a turbocharged engine for the Forte Koup. It would be the brand's first turbo. Loveless said turbocharging "is a natural extension if it makes financial sense."