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Kia announces plans for niche sector expansion

The new line up will include the Sorento SUV, due in March, and an unspecified supermini, which might be unveiled at Geneva and could be launched as early as next year. These models will continue Kia's development in the niche market, leaving the bulk of the volume sector to its Hyundai parent.

Much of the sales growth - Kia is targeting 18,000 units this year - will come from expanding the dealer network. It currently stands at 97 and Kia is confident that, with current initiatives in place, it will grow to around 125-130 by the end of the year, with an eventual target of 150 outlets.

Retailers will need to invest in their premises to meet a new franchise contract. Although this will not lead to "gin palaces", Kia wants to homogenise the network so it offers consistent levels of service. Each premises will need a reception area, similar interior styling, be able to accommodate two showroom cars and have a customer service manager.

But Kia recognises that it needs to help drive more traffic to the retail network in order to justify the investment. "We must get more consumer focused, for example, with the range of finance options we offer," says Mark Burrows, Kia national sales manager.

Marketing will also be stepped up with national ads running throughout 2003 and high profile sponsorships of the Australian tennis open championships and of Andre Agassi who becomes the new face of Kia.

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