LOS ANGELES -- Kia's best monthly sales gain of the year came with an 11th-hour push from the factory, one that could leave dealers with thousands of "sold" cars that will have to be sold again.
On Dec. 2, the last day of the November sales reporting period, Kia sent a memo to each of its dealers offering $1,800 in bonus dealer cash for each 2013 Kia Soul reported sold that day. The one-day-only spiff would be the last one offered on the 2013 Soul, according to dealers asked about the program, and subsequent sales no longer would count toward monthly stair-step incentive programs.
The timing of the memo -- received late in the afternoon on the West Coast and well into the evening in the East, dealers said -- meant dealers had only a few hours to report the cars as sold in order to qualify for the $1,800 bonuses. Some of those dealers said the short window left them little choice but to report those cars as sold on Dec. 2, and then try to sell them to actual customers later.
To qualify for the bonuses, dealers had to classify the sales under a special program code, "FNLPY," that allowed them to report a sale to the factory and remove the vehicle from the inventory system without having to furnish any information about a retail customer, according to the general manger of a Kia dealership who asked not to be identified.
After a string of mediocre monthly sales results this year, Kia reported an 11 percent gain for the November sales cycle ended Dec. 2, propelled by a 77 percent spike in sales of the Soul, a boxy subcompact.
Dealers have been selling down the 2013 Soul since the arrival of a redesigned 2014 model this fall, but at the time the Dec. 2 program began there were no consumer incentives in place on the outgoing model, dealers said.
It's unclear how many 2013 models were reported sold on Dec. 2. Kia says about 2,600 2013 Souls were in stock when the incentive program was announced to Kia's roughly 765 U.S. dealerships.