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Geneva 2017: Kia boss left 'punching the air' after NFDA Survey result

Flying high: Paul Philpott, president and chief executive, Kia (centre), collects  Kia recent AM Award 2017 for used car of the year from Philip Morrison, head of corporate sales, Car Care Plan

Kia Motors UK president and chief executive Paul Philpott said that he was “punching the air” after reading his dealers’ appraisal of his franchise in this week’s NFDA Winter Dealer Attitude Survey.

Philpott said that he was pleased to see such a high response rate to the twice yearly survey, stating that the spectrum of views lent the results “real validity”.

Speaking to AM at this week’s Geneva Motor Show, he said: “I was punching the air at the NFDA survey results. I’m delighted that the dealer network acknowledges the efforts that we make to create a good partnership.”

Kia's strong showing in the survey came on the back of securing the Franchise of the Year title at the AM Awards 2017.

The brand scored a 9.4 overall score in the NFDA's survey, just behind table-topping Mercedes-Benz’s 9.7 (average: 6.7), with a key profitability score of 8.5 against the German brand’s 9.1 (average: 5.5).

In 2016 Kia retailers realised an average 1.6% RoS, with a profit averaging £187,000.

Philpott was not too disappointed to miss out on the top spot. He said: “We had 96 responses and came back with an excellent score. Mercedes-Benz topped the table, but there were only 13 dealer responses. The fact that such a large proportion of our dealers responded and we were still up with the very best in the business is a great result.”

At this week’s Geneva Motor Show Kia unveiled a clutch of new models which are likely to keep its dealer network in buoyant spirits.

The new Picanto city car was joined on the stand by plug-in hybrid versions of its Optima Sportswagon and Niro SUV, part-EV products with expected CO2 emissions of around 44g/km and 30g/km, respectively, according to Philpott.

Their introduction to the Kia line-up could boost its appeal among fleet customers and also a customer base increasingly feeling the pressure to move away from diesel-powered cars.

Philpott said: “With the increasing focus on clean air we need a range of different powertrains to suit the full array of potential customers. The unveil of these cars is perfectly timed from our perspective.

“The Niro has already proved a huge success for us – we have sold out to the end of March – and the plug-in Optima Sportswagon could hit a sweet-spot in the market. We’ve already launched the plug-in saloon, but the Sportswagon accounts for 90% of Optima sales.”

Capturing most attention at Geneva, though, is a car that not all Kia retailers will have the opportunity to sell – the new Stinger performance coupe.

Moving the brand into more premium territory it has yet to occupy, and providing a new “Halo product”, the newcomer will feature a 370PS 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 and take on the likes of BMW’s 3-Series.

Over 2,000 expressions of interest to buy the Stinger have been made via the Kia website since it was unveiled at the North American International Motor Show, in Detroit, in January.

But Philpott revealed that it will not be sold by retailers who would have to sacrifice core products from their showroom in order to accommodate the four-door coupe.

He said: “Our minimum requirement now is a showroom with space for six cars and, while everyone has the opportunity to sell Stinger, we won’t recommend that a dealer sells the Stinger if they do so at the expense of core product.”

Asked whether dealers which have just under gone a network-wide CI update – only the new facility in Slough is awaiting the changes – would have to create a more premium showroom area in which to sell the Stinger, like Ford’s Vignale, Philpott said: “We’re indiscussions with dealers, but the last thing we want to do is drive more incremental cost into dealership just to sell one car.”

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