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Kia aims for top 10 spot

Kia's new Soul supermini, on sale from February, will boost the company's 2009 sales to around 33,000, an increase from the 31,500 it will sell this year, says managing director Paul Philpott.

Total Kia sales this year will be up about 7% on the 29,400 cars sold in 2007 - and it could have been more if supply of the Picanto and the Rio hadn't been restricted.

Market share has grown from 1.25% last year to 1.5% this and Philpott is targeting a 3% share of the retail market by 2012 which would put Kia among the top ten brands.

His aspirations will be helped by cars like the Soul which will sell around 5,000 in a full year; an MPV derivative is also in the pipeline. "Supply and stock management of the car will be important. I want to create demand," he says.


Prices will be announced next month but Philpott suggests the Soul, available with 1.6 litre petrol or diesel engine, will sell for somewhere between "under £11,000 and up to £14,000."

It's closest rival at the moment is the Suzuki SX4 and Philpott reckons the Korean-built Soul will have a fairly clear run until Nissan debuts the Cube towards the end of 2009 and Toyota's Urban Cruiser arrives after that.

Soul becomes the ninth car in the Kia UK line-up and Philpott says the excitement around the car is helping attract new dealers to the network and makes him confident enough to maintain his £15 million advertising budget in 2009.

With the cost of advertising expected to fall by as much as 6% according to some industry estimates, not cutting the budget will actually boost Kia's spending power.

Philpott is being optimistic about next year and reckons a total UK market of around 1.9 million is still possible. "It will be somewhere between 1.8 and 1.9 million," is his estimate.

Dealers are positive and the franchise is making money. "It's not where we want it to be but it is in profit," he says. The current network is 135, with 10 joining early in 2009 and another 10 by the end of the year.

Some of the expansion comes from existing dealers who want to add a second or third showroom while others want to add Kia to their portfolio.

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