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Kia confirms Optima demise in Australia

On your way: Kia has waved the white flag on the medium car segment, signalling that its Optima sedan will be euthanised in the Australian market before the end of this year.

Model cull at Kia as company prepares for new small SUV and EVs by 2020

Kia logo6 Mar 2019

KIA Motors Australia (KMAu) has confirmed that it plans to kill off the slow-selling Optima mid-sized sedan by the end of this year in an apparent cull of under-performing models and variants as it clears the deck for its new breed of vehicles.
 
The company also has no plans to continue with petrol-engine variants of the Soul small crossover wagon beyond this year, instead moving forward with only the full-electric version in the new-generation Soul as part of its battery-powered vehicle push from January 2020.
 
Product planners are also looking at the viability of four-cylinder variants of the rear-wheel-drive Stinger large sedan, with Australian customers overwhelmingly choosing the V6 GT version.
 
A new small SUV to compete in the hot-selling compact SUV segment and two electric vehicles are among the fresh faces set to replace the duds in the range within the next 12 months.
 
With only 54 sales in the first two months of this year, Optima volume is down 42.6 per cent on the same period of 2018, continuing a downward spiral that has been going on for several years.
 
KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith this week confirmed to Australian motoring journalists that the Optima was on death row, saying it would “very probably be gone by the end of this year”.
 
He said the medium car segment had shrunk over time as customers shifted to SUVs, adding: “The segment has disappeared.”
 
Mr Meredith said he hoped Optima customers would shift to other models in the Kia range, such as the Sportage and Sorrento SUVs or the Stinger large sedan.
 
The Optima demise comes as no shock, with KMAu warning last year that it was considering the move. It follows the now-defunct Rondo small people-mover out of the range.
 
Apart from battling shrinking popularity of medium cars, the Optima was also caught in a pincer from its Kia siblings, with the new Cerato sedan growing in size and the Stinger large sedan coming in over the top in 2017.
 
Elsewhere in the Kia range, Soul sales are down 33.9 per cent this year, following on from a 50 per cent plunge last year.
 
KMAu plans to give the boxy wagon one more chance as an electric vehicle, slipping it into the range alongside the e-Niro electric SUV, most likely as a price leader that will undercut every other EV on the market.
 
The company sees no room for the petrol or hybrid versions of the Soul, as it has a new small SUV coming before the end of this year.
 
The unnamed vehicle is expected to be unveiled in India in July, at least in its Indian guise. The international model will follow at a later date, with Australian supplies coming from South Korea by the last quarter of this year.
 
This SUV will sit below the Sportage in the Kia range and go up against Mitsubishi’s top-selling ASX and Kia sister company Hyundai’s Kona.
 
Like the Optima, the flagship Stinger sedan operates in a shrinking market segment, with the collapse of the Australian car market contributing to a 33.8 per cent fall in sales last year.
 
Stinger went against the segment sales trend in 2018, with dealers unloading almost 2000 units last year to place the big Kia second behind the Holden Commodore.
 
However, 92 per cent of those Stingers were top-shelf V6 GTs, meaning only about 160 of the sales were achieved by the four-cylinder variety.
 
Although Kia is at pains to say it has no immediate plans to knock the four-cylinder version on the head, it admits it is looking at the situation.
 
Stinger sales are highest in Queensland where the highly visible police highway patrol feet of about 120 Stingers has helped to trigger sales among private buyers.
 
The Northern Territory also has a fleet of eight Stingers. 
 
Mr Meredith said he had high hopes that the Victoria Police might make the switch to Stinger at some point.

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