A sub-Rio supermini is part of a bold plan to lift Kia Australia’s game Down Under as it streamlines it line-up with stronger models.
THE 2016 Kia Picanto has been confirmed for Australia and could be in showrooms as early as late this year as Kia chases 50,000 sales by 2019. The Picanto will be the smallest Kia on sale, and is close in size to the Mitsubishi Miragemirage as Suzuki Celerio and Nissan Micra. As predicted by Wheels in October last year, the Picanto will be offered in only a single specification and keenly priced at $14,990 driveaway.
The Picanto will be offered as a five-door only with a 62kW/120Nm 1.2-litre four-cylinder and four-speed automatic, with no other engines or transmission offered in order to rationalise pricing. Kia also believes that offering only a single model of the Picanto will ensure that it won’t hamper sales of the larger Kia Rio hatch, its third-best selling car in 2015 to date. In fact, the Rio – now priced from $16,990 – has opened up a space in the range for the Picanto to fill.
A target for the pint-sized hatch will be university students. “I’m not saying zero percent,” said Kia Australia spokesperson Kevin Hepworth, “But some HECS-like scheme … the target market for it will be parents who want to put their uni children into a safe vehicle.”
While price and spec have been confirmed, the Picanto’s arrival date is still up in the air. It could be here as early as November; however the Australian market could wait until the MY17 version, due mid-next year. “The marketing spend will have to be right,” said Hepworth. “Picanto will be immediately about volume – the market will tell us if it wants that car.”
The Picanto is part of the brand’s aim to achieve 50,000 sales in Australia by 2019. In 2014, it sold 28,005 cars here, while in-house rival Hyundai was one of only four brands to sell more than 100,000 cars last year, with 100,011, to finish fourth behind Toyota, Holden and Mazda. Traditionally, Hyundai-Kia HQ calls for Kia to sell 40 percent of Hyundai’s volume, which equates to around 40,000 of its current local sales.
In the first half of 2015, Kia has sold 16,660 vehicles – a record – but it’s not as simple as doubling that figure to more than 33,000 for an accurate full-year result. “Anyone who thinks the second-half of the year is going to sell as many as the first is kidding themselves,” said Hepworth, who added that the brand was not relying on market growth to reach its 2019 sales goal. Kia is also not looking to expand its 121 dealers in order to increase sales, either.
“If you’re going to get to 50,000, you’ve just going to have to get your numbers up,” said Hepworth. How? Hepworth said that models such as the Sportage, which sold 6368 in 2014, will need to be pushed to around 10,000 per annum through more focussed marketing strategies, while culling underperforming models.
Potentially on the chopping block are the Kia Soul, of which only 143 have been sold so far this year; the Rondo people mover that, with 249 sales, has done only marginally better, and the Proceed GT warm hatch, which is imported from Europe. For the Proceed, Australia may even miss out on the 2015 update unless Kia can shift stock of the existing car.
Despite the models under pressure, no decisions have been made. “Nobody’s put a line through any of them,” said Hepworth.