NEWPORT COAST, Calif. -- Kia expects the design and unique features of its redesigned Optima to vault the midsize sedan from a moderate-seller in its lineup to one of its two best-selling nameplates.
Kia occupies just a sliver of the roughly 1.7 million-unit mid-sized sedan segment with its current Optima, selling only about 25,000 units annually in the U.S.
Still, the automaker hopes to get a boost from the Optima’s sporty exterior design, penned by Kia’s European design studio in Frankfurt, Germany. Kia also will tout features on the Optima such as an optional panoramic sunroof, standard Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and a 200-horsepower, 2.4-liter gasoline direct-injection four-cylinder base engine.
“It will be one of the top two volume vehicles for us, I’m pretty certain of that” Tom Loveless, Kia’s U.S. sales boss, told a group of journalists at a press event here on Tuesday.
Kia wants to lure buyers away from the segment volume-leaders, Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
Exactly how much of the segment it intends to capture is unclear, as Loveless declined to estimate a specific annual sales volume for the redesigned Optima.
“We’re right in the throws of trying to work out next year’s calendar planning,” he said. “We’re obviously trying to get as much production as we can get our hands on.”
Ad blitz coming
“The Optima will be as important and on the same scale as our Sorento launch,” which began in January, included a Super Bowl ad and is still running ads featuring the high-line Sorento SX trim, said Michael Sprague, Kia’s vice president of marketing.
Kia will tout the Optima’s design, technology and Kia’s 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty in an advertising campaign that Sprague said will be the brand’s largest since it introduced the 2011 Sorento crossover in January.
The first phase of the campaign will follow the Optima’s November U.S. sales introduction and consist of national movie theater ads. The bulk of the ads will be shown in December and are expected to reach about 70 million people, Sprague said.
The Optima campaign’s second, and larger phase, will begin in February 2011 with a heavy emphasis on television with print and digital ad placements. The 2011 Optima will also be the official vehicle of the National Basketball Association’s upcoming season, continuing Kia’s sponsorship of the NBA signed in 2008.
As big as Sorento?
Kia’s top U.S. seller is its Sorento crossover. The redesigned crossover went on sale in January. Through August U.S. sales have nearly quadrupled to 68,835 vehicles compared with last year.Sales of the Sorento accounted for roughly 29 percent of the Kia’s 2010 U.S. sales in the same period.
The current Optima, on the other hand, represented only 8 percent of Kia’s U.S. sales in the same period. Optima sales through August have fallen 23 percent from last year to 19,198 units.
The new Optima will begin to arrive in U.S. showrooms in late October with a base 2.4-liter four cylinder direct injection gasoline engine and optional 2.0-liter GDI turbo. A hybrid version of the Optima will go on sale in the U.S. early next year after making its debut at the Los Angeles auto show in November.