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New Kia MD wants sustainable growth

New Kia Motors UK managing director Paul Philpott has this week met with the 10 retailers who form the Dealer Forum to discuss his plans for Kia and to listen to their views about network issues and future direction.

Top of the agenda will be profitability. Kia dealers suffered a collapse towards the end of 2005 after three years of rapid sales growth. Profits improved last year, ironically as Kia’s sales dipped by almost 10% (retail sales fell almost 25%), but dealers will be looking for reassurance that the Korean carmaker’s ambitious growth plans do not mean a return to poor margins.

“I’m looking to build open dialogue with the dealers like I did at Toyota,” says Philpott. “My first job is to find out why sales fell last year and then put in place measures for short-term growth and a strategy for long-term sustainable growth.”

He is keen to push back Kia’s 2010 sales target of 100,000 units by a year or two, believing it “is a realistic target, but probably not in that time period”.

Philpott, who has taken a Kia Sorento as his company car, says his “outsider’s view” of Kia was of a brand with a good products range and ambitious growth plans. It had, in appointing Peter Schreyer as its design boss, issued a clear signal of intent to conquer product design.

His family was surprised when they heard he was leaving Toyota – widely tipped to shortly become the world’s biggest manufacturer – for a small brand, but they “understood the challenge”.

He adds: “Staying at Toyota was the safe option – but I don’t do things by the book. Kia UK has the excitement and ambitions of a growing brand and has the back up of Kia Corporation.

On the appointment of Sun Young Kim as Kia UK president and CEO, Philpott says: “It signals the start of a new phase for Kia. We will work well together.”

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