CHICAGO -- Kia will use most of its expanded capacity in the United States to boost Optima production by as many as 60,000 units this year.
The decision comes after U.S. sales of the Optima more than tripled last year from 2010. Kia sold 84,590 Optimas in 2011, the redesigned vehicle’s first full year of production.
Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia added 60,000 units of capacity last year. The West Point, Ga., plant assembles the Optima and Sorento, as well as the Hyundai Santa Fe.
“We expect those [Kia] vehicles to account for about 50 percent of our volume here in the U.S. in 2012,” Tom Loveless, Kia Motors America’s vice president of sales, said at the Chicago Auto Show. The two vehicles last year accounted for 44 percent of Kia’s U.S. sales.
Kia has had a difficult time keeping up with demand for the Optima. If demand for the vehicle continues to outpace supply, Loveless said, Optimas will be imported from Korea. The Optima hybrid will continue to be imported from Korea, he said.
Loveless expects the Optima to be Kia’s No. 1 selling vehicle in the United States this year. The Sorento has been the top-seller for the past two years.
Loveless said with the boost in Optima production, Kia should have three vehicles with more than 100,000 U.S. sales this year -- the Optima, Sorento and Soul. In 2011, Kia sold 130,235 Sorentos and 102,267 Souls in the United States.
Last year, Kia sold 485,492 vehicles in the United States, a 36 percent increase from 2010.