Kia Motors America Hopes New COO Repeats That European Magic

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
kia motors america hopes new coo repeats that european magic

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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  • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on May 30, 2018

    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.

    • Bd2 Bd2 on May 31, 2018

      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).

  • Akear Akear on Jun 01, 2018

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

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  • Jeff S I did not know Plymouth had a full size van prior to the mini vans. I did know about the Plymouth pickups and the Trail Duster.
  • Arthur Dailey When I grew tired of the T-Bird trying to kill me by refusing to start at the most inconvenient times/places, I replaced it with a '79 fullsized Dodge (Sportsman) van. Similar to this but with a different grille and rectangular headlights. The 4 'captains' chairs in my van were pretty much identical to the ones in this van. Mine certainly was not as nicely finished inside. And it was a handful to drive in snow/ice. One thing that strikes me about this van is that although a conversion it does not seem to have the requisite dark tint on the windows.
  • Jeff S I am not a fan of Tesla and they were niche vehicles but it seems that they have become more common. I doubt if I get an EV that it would be a Tesla. The electrical grid will have to be expanded because people over the long run are not going to accept the excuse of the grid can't handle people charging their EVs.
  • AMcA The '70 Continentals and Town Cars may have been cousins to the standard body Fords and Mercurys, they didn't have to be disguised, because they had unique, unbelievably huge bodies of their own. Looking at the new 1970 interior, I'd say it was also a cost savings in sewing the seat. Button tufted panels like the 1969 interior had require a lot of sewing and tufting work. The 1970 interior is mostly surface sewing on a single sheet of upholstery instead of laboriously assembled smaller pieces. FINALLY: do I remember correctly that the shag carpet shown under these cars was a Photoshop? They didn't really go so peak '70s as to photograph cars on shag carpets, did they?