NEW ORLEANS -- Vehicle availability and marketing funds for Kia dealers will increase this year as the brand seeks to reverse its first annual U.S. sales decline since 2008.
Don Hobden, executive manager of six Kia dealerships in Kentucky, Alabama and Indiana and chairman of Kia's dealer council, said Kia executives told dealers at the make meeting that about 23,000 units of additional production will be available for the United States in 2014. Kia sold 535,179 vehicles last year, down 4 percent from 2012 while U.S. industry sales grew 8 percent. The extra production, plus a 62-day supply of inventory to begin the year compared with last year's roughly 30-day stock, should put Kia dealers in a good position to rebound from last year's slip, Hobden said.
"I think it's a huge win for Kia to have incremental volume available year over year," Hobden said.
Availability of the Kia Forte compact and Sportage small crossover will increase, dealers said after the make meeting. Forte supplies, for instance, were interrupted last spring during the vehicle's 2014 model changeover.
"They're increasing the mix on some of our prime sellers that we've had some shortages on, and, of course, we're going to go with the K900 that we're hoping will increase the whole image of the Kia product line" said Ken Phillips, one of Kia's highest-volume dealers with three stores in California and Washington, referring to the brand's rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan launching this year.
After a launch-heavy year last year, Kia is paying more attention to improving its overall brand and regaining sales momentum for core products such as the Optima mid-sized sedan, Soul subcompact and Sorento crossover, dealers said. Kia launched a redesigned Forte compact car lineup, Soul boxy subcompact and a new Cadenza sedan last year.
This year's launch schedule includes lower-volume vehicles such as the K900 flagship arriving this spring and a redesigned Sedona minivan that debuts in the third quarter.
Kia dealers said the lighter launch schedule should enable Kia to allocate more funds to support higher-volume vehicles such as the Optima and Soul.
The K900's launch was a major topic of discussion. Sales targets for the car weren't announced, but dealers said the vehicle would be sold initially through about 250 of Kia's roughly 780 dealerships.
Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing for Kia Motors America, said he hopes the K900 will act as a halo product to lift consideration and consumer opinion of the rest of Kia's product lineup.
"We see the K900 as a flagship for the entire brand," Sprague said. "When people see how great this car is, we expect that it will lift Sorento, Optima, Cadenza because people will say, 'Wow, a luxury vehicle from Kia? If they can do that, imagine what they're doing with Rios, with Souls and Sportages and the others.'"