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Kia turbo models still on hold for Australia

Backburner: The potent 204kW Kia Optima Turbo is now available in right-hand-drive, but is still no sure thing to arrive here any time soon.

Force-fed Kia performance cars still on the local wanted list, but hurdles remain

Kia logo3 Dec 2012

By MIKE COSTELLO

KIA Australia admits it is still “some way off” introducing an image-boosting turbocharged performance leader to its Australian line-up, but is considering at least three options.

The company, which has sought to change buyer perceptions of its product in recent years with sharper vehicle designs and Australian-specific suspension tuning, has previously made no secret of its desire to enter the performance car market.

Kia’s US-market (but Korean-made) Optima Turbo sedan, which packs a potent 204kW of power and 369Nm of torque from its 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine driving through the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission, has been on the agenda since its April 2011 global launch.

The force-fed Optima was made available in right-hand drive earlier this year, thereby overcoming one major stumbling block, but Kia Australia has yet to establish a firm business case to bring the car here and admits it may instead look at one of two edgier options set for global launch in 2013.

The first of these to appear overseas will be the chic Pro_Cee’d GT – announced via a teaser image last week and set to debut at the Geneva motor show in March – which will be powered by a version of the 150kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbocharged engine developed by parent company Hyundai for the Veloster SR.

 center imageLeft: Kia Pro_Cee'd GT sketch.

Kia has also confirmed the five-door Cee’d will likewise get the GT treatment, while the company is gearing for the forthcoming Cerato Koup to take on the same turbo engine.

The next-generation Koup will premiere in non-turbo form in New York next April, before coming to Australia in this guise by the end of 2013.

A turbo version appears to be a hot chance for Australia, although the timing of the expected global premiere means this will not be until at least 2014.

Kia Australia public relations manager Kevin Hepworth said the plan is still to get a performance car over the line for Australian release, but that any such release was “far down the track” as the company faced a battle with tight global production as well as getting approval from head office in Korea.

“There is a plan moving forward for a turbo vehicle in Australia, but it may not necessarily be the Optima there are other options available … it may come in a Cee’d or a Cerato,” he said.

“We’re still some way off any performance vehicle. It’s not a hold-up, it’s a process you have to go through.

“You have to verify that there is a profitable business plan for the car, that there is supply available – there’s no point launching something if you’re not going to be able to get it – that the engineering is sound for Australian Design Rule requirements, that it doesn’t damage your warranty levels, and convincing head office that we can launch it as a conquest vehicle and not one that’s going to cannibalise other vehicles from Kia,” he said.

This fear of market cannibalisation is what Mr Hepworth regards as a major reason for the lack of progress in creating a business case for the Optima Turbo.

“If you have a model that is selling, and you bring another variant, you (could) have two models and only sell the same number of cars because one is taking sales from the other,” he said.

“There’s no value in that it just increases complexity and cost with no outcome.

“If there is a business case that says you will increase (Optima) sales by 10 per cent because you have a turbo version, and you can get that 10 per cent of vehicles on a regular supply, then by all means we’re prepared to do it, but we have to know it’s (going to be) profitable.”

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