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New Kia Carnival ‘will retake crown’

Carnival king: The new Carnival (left) is set to arrive in Australia early next year, followed by the next-gen Sorento that is built on the same platform.

Kia set to deliver family car double whammy with new Carnival and Sorento in 2015

Kia logo10 Jul 2014

KIA'S next-generation Carnival will reclaim the people-mover crown in Australia when the all-new model arrives in local showrooms in about February next year, according to the company's new local chief.

The third-gen Carnival was revealed earlier this year at the New York motor show and is set to replace the ageing family hauler that went on sale in Australia in early 2006, making it one of the oldest vehicles in the local MPV segment.

Since it was introduced in 2006, Kia's Korean-built passenger van had been the top-selling people-mover in Australia every year until Honda's fifth-generation Odyssey - launched in February – overtook it in the first half of 2014.

Odyssey sales are up 135 per cent, to 1244 units, while Carnival sales have dropped 27.3 per cent to 990 units.

Even sister company Hyundai is catching the Kia in this segment, with sales of its iMax van up 51.4 per cent so far this year, to 907 vehicles.

Discussing Kia’s aggressive push for a larger market share Down Under, Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) chief operating officer Damien Meredith said he expected the Carnival to return to the top of the people-mover sales charts next year.

“We want to be number five in every segment we compete,” he said. “I think we will be number one next year (in people-movers). Odyssey will drop back and Carnival will take over. We are pretty confident with that.”

Mr Meredith said Kia would like to keep pricing for the new Carnival at a similar level to what it is now. The range kicks off from $38,990 plus on road costs for the petrol-powered S and climbs to $56,290 for the diesel-engine Platinum CRDi.

The Korean car-maker's local arm is expecting the new Carnival to achieve sales of about 350 units a month.

KMAu general manager of media and communications Kevin Hepworth said the newness of the vehicle when it arrives will help get the Carnival back to its best-seller days.

“Historically, Carnival has been 33 per cent of the people-mover market month in, month out, year in year out,” he said.

“The only time it dropped below that was when the new Odyssey hit the market.

We would be extremely surprised, having seen the car and having an idea of what it is offering, if it doesn't go back probably above that when you take into account early uptake and the new factor in the marketplace.”

While Mr Meredith is confident of the new Carnival's potential, he said Kia's SUV line-up – which includes the compact Sportage and larger Sorento – has not performed as well as expected, and suggested the company's naming policy had not helped.

“I think that we're probably under done a little bit in the small and medium SUV market both with Sportage and Sorento. Our names haven’t been able to get out there and that's our responsibility.”

Mr Meredith said the similarity on some of the model's names had hampered consumer's awareness of the products.

“Cerato, Sorento, it can be a little bit confusing,” he said.

While he said shifting to a simpler alpha-numeric naming system used on some Kia models in other markets, such as the K9 luxury sedan, would improve buyer's awareness of the brand, Mr Meredith ruled it out for the Australian market.

“In an ideal world it would be fantastic to have that alpha numeric situation but the reality is it probably won't happen.”

The next-generation Sorento will be underpinned by the same Hyundai Group multi-purpose vehicle architecture – known as UM – as the Carnival and the next Hyundai Santa Fe, and will debut at this year's Paris motor show ahead of a local launch in about April next year.

The current Sorento is sitting just outside the top 10 best-sellers in the competitive large SUV under $70,000 segment, with 1338 sales so far this year which is well below the segment leading Toyota Prado (8774) and less than half the haul of the related Santa Fe (3179).

Mr Meredith – a former sales director at Hyundai Australia – said he is expecting bigger things from the new model when it goes on sale next year.

“I think currently with Sorento being in run-out we are doing about 250-260 per month, month in, month out. (The Hyundai) Santa Fe, in a good month, does about 560-600,” he said.

“So I would hope that new Sorento would jump up to about 375-400 a month. I think it is probably a 5000-unit-a-year car.” Mr Meredith said the production schedule and launch timing for both the Sorento and the Carnival meant that neither vehicle would be launched during the 2015 Australian Open Tennis Championship in January, of which Kia is the major sponsor.

He said that players would once again be ferried around in current-generation Carnivals, and while he would have liked to have had at least one of the new models to launch during the tournament, “that's not going to be the reality,” he said.

Meanwhile Kia's next new-model launch will be the facelifted Rio light car later this year, which will bring minor cosmetic changes but “significant” upgrades to the ride and handling, thanks to Kia's local tuning program.

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