The Force behind Kia's rise to Australian success
A long time ago, in an automotive galaxy far, far away, the Kia Rebellion was forming.
Back when Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons ruled the Australian galaxy, the Korean brand rivalled Jabba the Hutt for sex appeal.
Step through the hyperspace window and Kia has become hotter than a wookie in a sauna.
Last year Kia was the only top 10 brand that improved sales in Australia. During a tumultuous 12 months hampered by tightening of lending, movements in exchange rates, slow wages growth and fire devastation, even the Toyota juggernaut dropped year-on-year by more than 10,000 units.
Over the past decade, Kia has been building it’s Jedi.
The product overhaul first began with the appointment of form Volkswagen and Audi design guru, Peter Schreyer in 2006. He’s risen to become the company’s Obi-Wan Kenobi — even appointed to head Hyundai’s design studio in 2013.
Here in Australia, the empire was building. When Luke Skywalker (aka chief operating officer Damien Meredith) arrived after careers with Honda and then Hyundai, he was ready for battle.
During the past decade the Kia Force Awakens.
Helping Kia Jedi along the journey has been the Yoda of suspension, Graeme Gambold. Make damper changes he will. Cars coming here carry his stamp of approval, having overhauled the cushy performance preferred overseas.
The launch of a seven-year warranty during October 2014 was pivotal in changing public opinion. Few others have followed, although big guns like Holden, Mitsubishi, Honda and Hyundai have dabbled with short-time offers.
Drawing his lightsabre, Meredith forecasts further growth this year even against the galaxy pressures.
“We think we can grow between four and five per cent this year,” Meredith said.
“We’ll have a full year of Seltos, so our product will help us there significantly. We believe we’ll hold on to our small passenger car volumes reasonably well…we’re pretty confident we’ll go close to selling 64-65,000 cars this year.”
Meredith has been left gobsmacked other brands are yet to join the seven-year warranty battle — apart from MG and Ssangyong.
“I thought at the time we would have three months clear air.
“Six years later we are still the only top 10 manufacturer that has a seven-year warranty,” he said.
The 2020 odyssey has Kia planning to turn more from the dark side.
Headlining the charge is a trilogy of big arrivals. The biggest is a new miniature SUV, the Stonic, as well as an all-new seven-seat Sorento and a complete revamp of the Carnival people-mover.
It seems the Force is strong with this one.