In the spotlight this week is Kia, the South Korean car manufacturer headquartered in Seoul. We spoke to director of corporate communications, Steven Kitson to find out about what Kia's got coming up this year, and more about the company's green credentials...
What are Kia’s most popular models?
Currently our best seller is the Sportage SUV, followed by our Picanto city car, Rio compact hatch and cee’d family
Can you tell us about any upcoming launches that you have in 2017?
We have just launched all-new versions of Picanto and cee’d, but still to come is the all new Stonic compact SUV and our high performance fastback – the Stinger which includes a 3.3 litre V6 twin turbo version producing 375bhp and capable of 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds. Also we shall be adding plug-in hybrid versions of our Niro SUV and Optima Sportswagon
What are Kia’s aims for 2017? What are your key growth areas?
Our stated aim is achieve 91,000 registrations – another record year. We continue to seek to provide a high-quality, design-led, trustworthy range of vehicles that offer appropriate solutions for the widest range of motorists. We are strong in retail sales – around 60 per cent of total sales – and want to stay strong in that sector.
What are you looking forward to the most in 2017 from a fleet perspective?
Business and fleet sales are important to us, despite retail out-performing this area. What is vital to us is that our business and fleet business is organic in growth and sustainable. We will not “buy” market share at the cost of residuals and customer confidence. We believe that although business customers want the best possible deal they have one eye equally on their investment, so good residuals, ease of disposal and reliability are just as important. Kia meets that expectation with its still industry leading seven year warranty, competitive and fair pricing and products that out-perform many competitors in terms of residuals – in 2016 Auto Trader recognised the Sportage as the fastest-selling used car in the country.
Can you tell us more about your integration of new technology, especially around sustainability and electric vehicles?
Like all manufacturers we exist in a world where technology advances by the second but cars still take years to bring to markets. It is more cost effective and much more reliable to build new technology into the car than to retro-fit. Every new vehicle we launch features the latest technology including Apple Car Play and Android Auto. We increasingly are fitting autonomous emergency braking, smart cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot detection, all-around cameras and of course technology such as Tom Tom services. Some of our cars have in-built wif-fi and wireless mobile phone charging. We are committed to introducing technology that serves a purpose and that customers want. We want our technology to be easy to use and understand. We have a range of hybrid, plug-in-hybrid and electric vehicles and we shall introduce more such options to our range as and when appropriate (see above regarding PHEVs) – this is usually best done as models are replaced.
With many of the leading car manufacturers showcasing new innovations all the time in a competitive environment... What gives Kia a competitive edge?
Which other manufacturer offers a full factory-backed seven year warranty on its hybrid or electric vehicles? Top trump I think! As I said above, we believe in technology that serves a purpose and that is both affordable and reliable and this will be our focus moving forward.
How do you see green automotive and electric car technology growing over the next few years?
Kia could launch hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles tomorrow – but where would owners re-fuel? The big challenge is infrastructure and for that, governments and legislators have to bite the bullet and encourage it. Currently many legislators seek to grow electric vehicles by “punishing” buyers of internal combustion engines – but with oil prices falling that is not a solution. Investment in a realistic network of fast recharging stations and hydrogen re-fuelling stations will do more to bring about a powertrain revolution than congestion charging, road-pricing or demonising the latest, clean, diesel technologies. There is still a lot of potential in petrol and diesel but legislators cannot “earn” tax revenue to green credentials by encouraging progress in these areas. Politicians look to the next election – R&D engineers look to the next generation. This imbalance must change for green technologies to become widely accepted by the individual motorist.
What’s next for Kia?
Our ambition, globally as well as in the UK, is to provide an appropriate range of personal transport solutions for individuals whilst doing everything in our power to protect the environment we live in. That means we want to continue to grow our business by developing attractive vehicle – attractive design, attractive technology and attractive cost of ownership. We serve our customers and they remain our first priority – we value their trust and will do all we can to make them proud of their Kia, feel safe in their car and be surprised by how well it serves their needs and exceeds their expectations.
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