It has been in talks with a number of large groups, including Pendragon, but smaller operations are also known to have approached Kia, spurred by the brand’s aggressive marketing drives, record sales in 2004 and in March (33,000 and 7,300 respectively), a raft of new and revised models and rising residual values. The 2005 target of 44,500 units looks achievable and Kia is confident of hitting 55,000 in 2006, 70,000 in 2007 and 100,000 within this decade.
Understandably, among companies looking for a new partnership with Kia (which had 90 outlets when it took control of its brand in the UK in 2002 and subsequently enjoyed 71.5% sales growth in 2003 and 57.8% in 2004), are several MG Rover retailers.
KMUK managing director Paul Williams, speaking at the launch of the new diesel engined-Cerato, admits there are some “inner city black holes” in the marque’s list of open points, but adds that discussions to fill some of these gaps are at an advanced stage.
However, being an MG Rover franchisee is not an automatic entry visa to Kia.
“The MG Rover situation could well accelerate the process,” he says. “But we are no longer regarded as an add-on franchise. We are only interested in talking to people who will be capable of delivering a 5% market share, otherwise we won’t get where we want to.”
Kia’s upmarket aspirations are clearly illustrated by Spirit’s opening of a new solus Kia dealership in Northampton and advanced plans for another in Leamington Spa; NK Motors is building one in Derby and a 22-car standalone showroom is being constructed by Wessex Garages in Bristol – the largest in Europe.
Lawrence Hamilton, general manager, marketing, confirms Kia is looking to forge partnerships with pro-active, committed groups – “those who fully understand the Kia business proposition”.
He adds: “We are worried about some of the Kia dealers who have joint franchises with MG Rover. They are due their bonuses from MGR and if these don’t materialise, their businesses could be seriously affected.”