LOS ANGELES -- Kia Motors America has quietly dropped the Rondo compact van and Borrego mid-sized SUV for the 2011 model year.
A Kia spokesman confirmed that the models have been discontinued for sale in the United States, but he declined to elaborate on the decision. Both vehicles are still being sold overseas and in Canada as 2011 models.
In the U.S. market, Borrego and Rondo sales fell in 2010 while the brand as a whole posted a 19 percent gain compared with 2009. Kia sold 9,835 Borregos last year, down 7 percent from 2009. Rondo sales fell a whopping 75 percent to 3,588 units.
The vehicles compete in two segments in transition.
The industry is shifting away from truck-based SUVs like the Borrego as consumers migrate to car-based crossovers that offer better fuel efficiency. The Rondo's small minivan segment, though, is seeing new entries from automakers looking to offer more fuel-efficient alternatives to traditional minivans.
“The Rondo is a product that was getting very, very long in the tooth,” said Ed Kim, director of industry analysis at AutoPacific Inc. “It's an older product with an older level of execution and a product that I wouldn't consider to be very competitive with these new vehicles that are hitting the market.”
Those new vehicles include the redesigned 2012 Mazda5 arriving in showrooms this month and Ford's new C-Max small van scheduled to debut in 2012. Kim said other automakers have plans to sell compact minivans that seat at least six passengers in a bid to appeal to young, environmentally conscious families.
But such vehicles are designed primarily for the tighter roads of Europe and Asia, Kim said. That and the fact that the third row of seats in compact vans is smaller than in traditional minivans make U.S. consumer acceptance a “wild card,” Kim said.
The Borrego's U.S. demise comes about two years after it went on sale — in the summer of 2008, when gasoline prices spiked and big SUVs fell out of favor with consumers.
“The Borrego was perhaps the worst-timed product launch of 2008,” Kim said.
It's unclear whether Kia has a direct replacement in its product plans for the United States. Kia's 2011 Sorento crossover — with a third row of seats, better fuel efficiency and a lower sticker price — may be a better fit for the brand as consumers migrate from SUVs to crossovers.