By on May 29, 2018

2018 Kia Stinger - Image: Kia

Kia Motors, the brand that entered the U.S. with the Sephia and improved drastically from there, has a new chief operating officer — one it hopes can guide the automaker’s domestic division to greater sales heights.

It’s a reasonable expectation, as Michael Cole helped grow Kia Motors Europe’s sales 40 percent during his time as COO. Cole took on that role back in 2012. With a new executive to guide its sales, marketing, and product planning, Kia hopes last year’s U.S. sales slide is a one-time blip.

Prior to his time at Kia Motors Europe, Cole managed the brand’s British division.

“Kia’s sales, market share and brand awareness increased dramatically across Europe under Michael Cole’s leadership and his wealth of knowledge and experience will serve our U.S. operations well as we continue to sharpen the focus on retail sales,” said Kia Motors America president and CEO Sean Yoon, who assumed the top spot on March 1st.

“We have an aggressive slate of new and redesigned product launches scheduled for the next 18 months, and I look forward to working with Michael to increase demand for Kia’s award-winning vehicles in the United States.”

Following the recession, the Kia brand enjoyed eight straight years of sales growth in the United States. As the industry peaked last year, so too did Kia. 2017’s sales tally was 8.9 percent lower than 2016’s. The brand’s U.S. volume fell 5.2 percent in April, with year-to-date sales slightly in the red.

It’s not from lack of trying. In the past year, new and redesigned products have become the norm at Kia. The midsize, rear-drive Stinger brought newfound attention to a brand long seen as lacking excitement, while the Niro lineup of green pseudo-crossovers aims to put families in hybrids at a lower price point than the competition. There’s also a competent new Rio. Oh, and a redesigned Forte. And a second-generation K900.

Cole, who replaced Michael Sprague as COO, claims his mission is to “deliver the sales growth and brand reputation enhancement” Kia’s products deserve.

[Image: Kia Motors]

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16 Comments on “Kia Motors America Hopes New COO Repeats That European Magic...”

  • avatar

    Not even Steven Tyler could stop the slide?

    • 0 avatar

      I think Steven Tyler drives much better cars than Kia. Kia is probably the last brand he would consider.

      • 0 avatar

        I can only say that, when we last test drove a series of vehicles, the Kias (Sportage and Optima) were at the top of their respective classes, in driving qualities (especially), features and value. Much better than their Hyundai relatives, and than most other competitive makes.

        One person’s experience.

  • avatar

    Michael Cole, he got to work with that hot lookin’ Peggy Lipton on ‘The Mod Squad’.

  • avatar

    KIA seems to have decent cars at fair prices. KIA cars are not the problem – KIA *dealers* are the problem. All KIA salespeople only know one question, “How much can you afford per month?”

    Around here, KIA and Mitsubishi dealers are owned by the same people, all of whom used to own BHPH lots. Visit a KIA dealer and you will leave feeling like you need a shower.

  • avatar

    So, if I were given Kia for fun, I say go all RWD. Be the bargain RWD brand. Rio, Forte, CUVs, all go RWD next generation. Optima dies, replaced by a more basic Stinger trim. Why worry with following other midsize sedans to the edge of the cliff, try carving your own path, aim for higher transaction prices over raw sales numbers. Make Forte and Rio basically far more practical Miatas and Toyobarus. Carve a niche. Stand out. Make your mark.

    Then build a BOF midsize pickup and SUV, followed by half-ton/full size versions. Build them in Georgia. Sell the midsizer world wide. Dump the Sedona already. Its embarrassingly slow selling. Create a funky people mover, like a Soul but plus sized.

    Dump the BHPH-like gimmicks and dump dealers with low customer satisfaction scores. Do more to eliminate thugs like Orlando Kia West.

    • 0 avatar

      Not going to happen.

      RWD costs more $$ and the vast majority of American buyers are value buyers.

      However, there have been indication that AWD is a real possibility for the Forte, Optima, Cadenza and Sedona down the road.

      As for BoF, H/K have been laying the groundwork for BoF pick-ups, but at this juncture, slated more for the Australian, SE and S Asian markets.

  • avatar

    Hate Kia/Hyundai products.
    -‘Off’ vehicle dynamics.
    -Strongly priced – poor resale (compared to Toyota/honda/subaru)
    -Odd layout and touch points (example: turn signal tap feature on a 2016 sonata (lane change) 5 blinks with a baby toy sound ‘dong’) All others see 3 blinks as proper with a proper ‘click’ or ‘tick’ tone.

    With so many outstanding brands out there, why bother??

    • 0 avatar

      Gee, I wonder if the guy picking out his bones with the tap-to-pass turn signal is biased against Hyundai/Kia.

    • 0 avatar

      Why bother – ?

      Twin-turbo V6, RWD, liftback, $20-30K less than the competition. What’s not to like?

      With the SS dead, I’d take a Stinger in a heartbeat.

    • 0 avatar

      >>> 3 blinks as proper <<<
      Here in California, the 3-blink sequence isn't long enough to be legal, so why bother having it. I find in my car I have to tap, wait for the 3 blinks, and then tap again to get another set. That's stupid. I instead wind up either holding the lever for the needed time/distance or actually pushing the lever all the way and and then manually cancelling.

  • avatar

    I think Kia went the wrong way with the Rio and Forte. The chassis and engine of my Optima are pretty good for a mainstreamer, but what really drew me to it was the style. Rio and Forte need that. It’s weird because Kia has the Stinger, but Hyundai has the Elantra Sport and Veloster N. I would have thought Kia would be the sporty brand. It’s a bit of a mess. Everything from the Kia brand should pivot off of the Stinger. A Stinger styled crossover should be the brand’s flagship.

    • 0 avatar

      Kia is the “sportier” brand, they just don’t have a performance division like Hyundai (a typical Optima or Sportage is sportier than the typical Sonata or Tucson).

      Actually think the new Forte will do well for Kia (taking into account declining sedan sales); looks a lot better than the outgoing model (which was a major step back compared to its predecessor) inside and out and with the suspension upgrade and the addition of a CVT (not a plus for everyone, but supposedly doesn’t have that “rubberband” feel), handles better and gets better fuel economy.

      What will help Kia here is increased supply of the Sportage (which looks better with the changes made to its front fascia for its facelift), a new Soul (rumored to be getting AWD) and the addition of the Telluride CUV.

      A big reason why Kia (and Hyundai for that matter) have been doing better in Europe over the past couple of years is that they had a better product/supply mix (Europe has gotten a greater supply of the Sportage and Niro).

  • avatar

    It did not take too long for Kia to beat Detroit in quality.

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