Yaser Shabsogh is sales director for the UK operation, and confirmed the current 140 dealers wasn’t enough. “We should have 170 to get the kind of coverage we’re looking for and we’ll get to that in the next couple of years,” he said.
“We’re looking for coverage so that customers can have access to a Kia dealer based on no more than 30-35 minutes travel time. When you model the UK along those lines it throws up 30+ points where customers would have to drive further.”
Shabsogh said, in common with other manufacturers, the Korean firm has problems in London. “Ideally we should have eight or nine points of representation. We started this year with just one – in west London – and we will finish the year with three, but we’re looking to appoint another five in the next couple of years.” He said Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow are other cities where coverage needs to be improved.
Kia has had a 30% churn of dealers in recent years. Shabsogh – sales director for less than less than six months – openly admits anyone who would take the franchise was given it. “Some have been successful, but for a lot of them, through no fault of their own, the business case hasn’t stacked up. They should never have been appointed in the first place,” he confirmed.
Kia will sell around 30,000 new vehicles in 2007, down from 38,000 last year. The plan for 2008 is to get it back up to near 35,000. Much of the growth will be based around the acclaimed Cee’d small family hatchback and estate, plus the facelifted Picanto supermini. The Sportage compact SUV, which will now be built in Europe and come with a seven-year warranty, is also expected to make an impact.
Shabsogh continued: “To strengthen the dealer network it’s about getting the right people with the right mind-set. It’s also not just one-off appointments; we’re looking at partners who can grow and have multiple sites. There are only so many good operators out there, so it makes sense to work with them.”