Kia America closed 2022 at the top of the charts, setting sales records for December and the fourth quarter and managing to squeak by with only a slight decrease for the year, outpacing much of the industry's deeper slide.
Kia America ended 2022 with U.S. sales of 693,549, a decrease of 1.1 percent compared with 2021. In the fourth quarter, Kia deliveries reached 175,401, an increase of 20 percent compared with the same period a year earlier. Kia posted December sales of 60,422, a 25 percent increase over the year-earlier month.
Much of Kia's growth can be attributed to prioritizing production of its fastest-turning, top-selling vehicles throughout the year, according to Eric Watson, vice president of sales operations for Kia America.
That includes Kia's longest-running nameplate, the Sportage compact crossover, which topped 125,200 sales, and the Forte compact sedan, which ended the year with deliveries of more than 108,400. The Telluride large crossover came in just 100 vehicles shy of 100,000 sales.
One notable adjustment for Kia during 2022 was the increase in average transaction pricing for the value-oriented brand. Customers opted for more expensive models of the EV6 electric crossover and the Telluride, which showed buyers' willingness to pay top dollar to secure the three-row crossover.
"We're selling products in higher segments like Telluride and EVs, so the transaction price is going up," said Watson. "The customers we're attracting to the brand are choosing for the higher-equipped models, so they're self-selecting to go more upscale."
Watson says Kia will face headwinds in 2023, with rising interest rates and the Inflation Reduction Act's revised guidelines on the $7,500 federal tax credit that disqualified imported electric vehicles, but demand is strong for its electrified products — whether hybrids, plug-in hybrids or EVs.
"We are starting our transformation to electrify our lineup, and customers are very accepting of that, as seen by our sales results," Watson said.
Notable nameplates: Kia Sportage, up 117% in December, up 124% in Q4; Sorento, up 12% in December, up 12% in Q4; Seltos, up 62% in December, up 50% in Q4; Telluride, up 44% in December, up 20% in Q4; Forte, down 11% in December, up 15% in Q4
U.S. light-vehicle market share: 5 percent in 2022, up from 4.7 percent in 2021.
Incentives: $489 per vehicle in December, down 70%, and $463 per vehicle in the fourth quarter, down 84% from a year earlier, according to TrueCar.
Average transaction price: $35,309 in December, up 7.2%, and $34,665 in the fourth quarter, up 23% from a year earlier, according to TrueCar.
Fleet mix: Kia said fleet sales made up 3.1% of total volume in December and 5.6% in 2022.
Inventory: Kia was hampered by some of the industry's leanest inventories throughout 2022, well below a 10-day supply, but the automaker closed out the year with an 11-day supply of dealer stock.
Quote: "The inflation Reduction Act will pose some challenges [in 2023], but we believe there's an opportunity to lease vehicles and be able to claim all or some of the tax incentive," said Watson. "We're going to manage our strategy closely to hit our sales volumes that we're trying to obtain."
Did you know? About 200 track-ready EV6 GT electric crossovers, with 576 hp, have hit dealership lots, Kia says. It is not only the fastest vehicle in the brand's lineup, but the most expensive, with a starting price of $62,695, including shipping.