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Kia: Fleet will beat retail in 2016

Date: 10 February 2016   |   Author:

This year could be the first one where Kia sells more vehicles to fleet than retail customers, claims Paul Philpott, the manufacturer's UK president and CEO.

This comes as the brand is launching a new version of the Sportage - a vehicle that makes up 28% of its UK sales - and readying a new fleet-friendly Optima plug-in hybrid as well as a Niro hybrid.

With fleet sales set to make up around 60% of Sportage registrations, and low-emission Optima and Niro models likely to win over many user-choosers, Philpott expects the proportion of Kia fleet sales to outnumber retail transactions in 2016, up from a 50:50 balance in 2015 to a ratio possibly reflecting developments in the wider market. However, this is not a trend that is likely to continue into the following 12 months, Philpott adds: "That will change again back to 50:50 in 2017 when we get other new products that are more focused on retail." These are likely to be the new Picanto and Rio small cars.

The Korean company is looking to both fleet and retail to grow its presence in the UK car market , and with its best seller, the Sportage, the brand is targeting user-choosers and retail buyers, as well as a small volume of Motability and rental.

Despite increasing sales through the lifecycle of the incumbent Sportage - a rare feat in itself - hitting around 23,000 units in 2015, Philpott does not see Kia's crossover catching up with the hugely popular Nissan Qashqai's 60,000-unit figure, which he puts down to the UK-built Qashqai's home advantage, with strong supply allowing aggressive fleet dealings.

However, Philpott does expect the new Sportage to conquest customers from the Renault Kadjar, Hyundai Tucson, VW Tiguan, Ford Kuga and Toyota Rav4, and "for the first time we've got a very strong group of existing owners", he adds.

With Sportage emissions starting at 119g/km - several BIK bands above the 99g/km Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar - Philpott anticipates that the upcoming sub-99g/km Niro hybrid will steal numerous fleet customers away from rivals. With the arrival of the dedicated Niro hybrid, the Sportage is unlikely to receive petrol-electric tech in the short term, Philpott hints.

Fitting the firm's economical 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol motor to replace the 1.6-litre non-turbocharged petrol is a possibility, although Philpott says "there's no firm plan right now".