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Kia reassures ‘owner-drivers’

Kia Motors UK has moved to reassure its network it will not drop long-standing dealers in favour of plcs as long as they are willing to expand to ensure its growth ambitions remain on track.

Steve Kitson, KMUK’s director of press and PR, has told AM the importer is keen to preserve its links with private dealer groups and owner-driven businesses who have held the franchise for years, and it will not bow down to the demands of plcs seeking franchises in the same area.

Last month, AM revealed that the UK’s largest dealer group, Pendragon, is starting a push for growth with value brands. It expects to announce its first Kia franchise soon, and has already increased its representation with Hyundai, Kia’s parent group, to three sites, with plans to add more later this year.

Kitson will not discuss Pendragon specifically, but admits KMUK is in advanced discussions with two leading plcs. “We want to work with the big names in the business and will talk with them but we are not going to roll over just because they are big groups.”

He adds: “We don’t want to out-manoeuvre our existing dealers – any which are in the network at the moment and want to grow with us will get full support from us. However, we recognise that we are going to need some very well established experts on higher volumes and fleet sales to reach our targets.”

Large plcs generally require a number of strategically placed outlets to sell high volumes. KMUK has the goal of capturing 4% of the new car market by 2008 – a share which will equate to almost 100,000 units a year, treble the sales it achieved in 2004. Last year it added 45 new dealerships to its network, taking the total to 175, however its franchising team hopes to add another 20 sites this year.

New models include the Rio five-door this summer and Sedona large MPV in spring 2006.

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