The growth has not been built on sand. Covid aside, Kia has grown each year since scrappage. Its residuals have been strong, and it has never had to dump a load of spare stock on the market to chase volume. It got very close to 100,000 in 2019 when it sold 97,000 cars, but resisted any temptation to break the magic 100k barrier at the end of the year by pre-registering the cars needed to get there.
“In this industry you can create sales and registrations but you won’t be sustainable without growing demand,” said Philpott. “If you do that, then residuals will drop and you typically fall back the next year, as many manufacturers do after a growth spurt.”
The Sportage and Niro make up the bulk of the Kia range, and it was the successful launch of the previous generation Sportage that made Philpott believe 100,000 was possible. It was then the success of electric models that made it inevitable. Some 43% of Kia sales last year were electrified, and 16% of the total were fully electric.
Kia’s success with electric cars has been the final step in changing the brand’s wider perceptions, and it now sits firmly in the mainstream. A budget brand it is no more.
“I think that electrification has been a great leveller of brands. We are seen as a leader in electrification with the EV6, Niro, Soul, plug-ins and hybrids. Cars have really changed, and electrification has accelerated the perception change of the Kia brand. It has enabled us to be looked at with any brand, from the likes of Tesla and BMW, and also brands that now even offer cheaper products than us.”