By on May 26, 2022

kia

Following reports that the Hyundai Sonata may not be long for this world, there have been rumbling that the fate of the Kia Stinger and K5 sedan may also be in jeopardy.

The reasoning is obvious. After years of crossovers seeing an increased share of the global market, automakers have been dumping sedans so they can sell products that come with higher margins. A sizable percentage of the population has also been sold on the theory that higher-riding vehicles are automatically safer than their road-hugging counterparts. While that is endlessly debatable between models, there are aspects of crossovers that make real sense for the modern era. Storage capacity is typically better than what you’d find on a similarly sized sedan and the lengthened suspension travel can help the vehicle absorb the impact of pothole-laden streets that seem to be cropping up everywhere. 

Whether its wholly the result of marketing, automakers that previously culled their lineup of sedans (e.g. practically every American brand), or an organic change based around the evolving needs of drivers, crossovers and SUVs now dominate the automotive marketplace. But it’s coming at the expense of vehicles some people (your author included) tend to prefer. We’re losing good vehicles that can occasionally be found with semi-rational price tags and it looks like we might be on target to see a few more walk off into the sunset.

These stressors are reportedly a few years away, however. Reports of the Sonata’s demise suggest that it’ll get a refresh in the coming years before being phased out entirely somewhere around 2027. The reason given is that Hyundai Motor Group (which includes Kia) is targeting annual sales of more than 3 million electric vehicles globally by 2030 and needs to free up space in its lineup for EVs. In fact, the Asan plant in South Korea where the Sonata is produced has already stopped building it to make room for the Ioniq 6 electric sedan.

Automotive News speculated that Kia’s sedans may be suffering a similar fate. Though it was hardly alone. Numerous outlets suggested that the brand may already be picking out tombstones for the K5 and Stinger, with no shortage of support from market annalists.

Kia

“Under Executive Chairman Euisun Chung, there seems to be a willingness to do away with sentimentally iconic nameplates as the automaker forges ahead toward the future,” explained Ed Kim, president and chief analyst at AutoPacific.

As previously stated, sedan sales have been on the decline. Though some of that has been attributed to the industry (both factory and dealer franchise) deprioritizing their existence so push crossovers offering superior profitability.

J.D. Power previously reported that SUV (which includes crossovers for some reason) and pickup sales accounted for a record 80.2 percent of new vehicle sales last December. EV sales are also up by a whopping 80 percent (year-over-year), despite their only representing 3 percent of the overall market. But that still doesn’t leave a lot of room for sedans that formerly dominated dealer lots. While the body style still enjoys millions of sales globally every single year, most individual models have continued losing ground into 2022.

From Automotive News:

Annual U.S. sales of the Sonata last topped 200,000 in 2015 (213,303) and volume has steadily dropped to below 100,000 in recent years.

“Its popularity has plummeted in its primary markets of North America and South Korea at the hands of crossover SUVs,” Kim said. “It has increasingly become a fleet car in South Korea, popular with taxi operators, but with Hyundai Motor Group about to launch the all-electric Kia Niro Plus taxi, the Sonata’s relevance is further threatened.”

Kia’s midsize sedan, the K5, formerly the Optima, shares the same platform with the Sonata and will likely be phased out as well.

“I will be shocked if K5 doesn’t follow the same fate as Sonata,” [Jesse Toprak, chief economist for Autonomy] said. “It is very likely you’re going to see the same trajectory of slow production declines over the next three to five years for the K5 until it is completely replaced by an EV.”

The rear-drive, performance-oriented Stinger is also said to be in trouble. Originally designed to be a halo vehicle for the Kia brand with the goal of drumming up excitement among automotive enthusiast, the model has actually managed to maintain a relatively healthy sales record. Despite U.S. deliveries dropping to 12,556 units in 2020, the Singer bounced back with 13,517 sales in 2021. Unfortunately, its occupying the same midsize sedan segment that most automakers seem to be nixing to prioritize EVs and/or crossovers.

“[The Stinger] demonstrated that Kia could do a bona fide rear-wheel-drive performance car, and even though it wasn’t a volume seller, it helped elevate the Kia brand considerably,” Kim said. “Even if it ends up as a one-generation vehicle, it will still have done its intended job.”

Neither Hyundai or Kia seem to have been willing to confirm or deny rumors that any of the above vehicles are being put out to pasture in the initial reports. However the latter brand’s PR team did tell us that the Stinger and K5 are not going anywhere.

That could be due to the likelihood of any U.S. discontinuations being a few years off. But there are also growing concerns within the industry that full-scale EV production might not be tenable for some time. The price of raw materials are skyrocketing right now, elevating manufacturing costs across the board. This includes the already expensive batteries that are put into electric vehicles, with annalists suggesting prices may climb by over 22 percent between now and 2026.

Combine that with earlier assertions that global production rates (and prices) may not return to those witnessed before COVID lockdowns and you can kind of see where all of this could be going. Despite figuring out how to remain profitable in a time of crisis, the future of the automotive industry looks rather perilous in general. Emissions regulations are tightening, manufacturing costs are way up, and everyone but the most affluent of customers have less money to throw around. It’s going to be incredibly difficult proposition to totally transform the market into an EV-dominant landscape and it’s probably just a matter of time until people begin clamoring for reliable vehicles with reasonable price tags.

If automakers can make that work with EVs, then this was a bunch of handwringing about nothing. But there’s mounting evidence that complicates that particular supposition. Meanwhile, any marque that decides to go against the grain and continue offering traditional sedans may soon have the entire segment to themselves. Though it’s a gamble that assumes crossovers won’t continue gaining in popularity and EVs are still a decade or two from seeing mainstream acceptance. Kia basically told us there’s no reason to worry about the K5 and Stinger, so maybe it’ll be one of those brands.*

Our managing editor was at an industry event and asked a Kia spokesperson about this report and was told that the Stinger and K5 aren’t going anywhere.

Sometimes the decisions the industry should be making seem painfully obvious you wonder how corporate leadership hasn’t already been fired. Other times I’m just overwhelmingly glad these aren’t my choices to make. This one falls into the latter category.

[Images: Hyundai Motor Group]

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22 Comments on “Kia Rumored to End Stinger and K5 Production, Brand Says Nah...”


  • avatar
    ajla

    I think it is extremely unlikely the Stinger makes it past MY2024.

    I’m not really sure what it accomplished for Kia either. Performance of the future for most brands is going to be electric AWD pseudo-CUV and there’s really no relationship between the Stinger and other current Kias. By 2029 most people won’t even remember it existed. I said a few months ago that it is the modern AMC Matador Coupe.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The TTV6 Stinger is already becoming a collectible, and next to the Telluride, it did the most to uplift the image of Kia as a brand (the Telluride, Stinger, Carnival and EV6 all have ATP in the $40k+).

      Would not be surprised if down the line we see an electric Stinger (but likely in the form of “crossover-coupe”).

  • avatar
    JMII

    SUV make up 80% of sales… terrible news for the sedans, especially performance ones (that don’t have M in them) like the “new” Integra and Stinger. I wonder how many of these customers have just gotten a Tesla since that instant torque has pretty much replaced go-fast sleeper sedans of the past.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Honestly if that 80% is solid then sedans are basically finished. Most of that remaining 20% could live with buying a utility vehicle anyway and some of that 20% are buying Camaros and Miatas. You’ll have the Camry, Corolla, and 3-5 premium/luxury brand players. Basically similar to the coupe/convertible market.

      I’ll have to get a DRW F-350 out of spite.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Perhaps though if you are correct I’d say that’s it for the segment since those Teslas will be scrap in ten or so years and owners will likely move on to other vehicle types as they age.

  • avatar
    John R

    Dang. The Stinger going away, I feel like, was already admitted as much by the Hyundai chaebol in some fashion.

    I was hoping, however, that the Opti…er…K5 might survive that and the Sonata going away and allow Kia to pair the AWD that comes in lower trims of the K5 with the 290hp/311lb motor from the GT trim of that car. It needs it.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    Given the automakers’ general push away from ICE vehicles barring an energy crisis or political wrangling, if discontinued sedans are replaced by EV equivalents for not much more $$$, then no harm/no foul.

    Yet with limited supplies of raw materials for batteries and money to be made, automakers would probably not even bother making EV sedans and go straight into selling 31 different flavors of EV crossover; differing only in the # of seats, a few inches in length/height, and the rake of the rear tailgate.

  • avatar
    1st_one

    Sad that it’s coming to an end. I’ve tried twice in the last 5 years to get a reasonable lease on a Stinger only to get quotes in the $700 and $800 range. Nice product but out of touch lease rates.

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    In a shrinking segment, consumers who remains tend to flock to the safest bet; Camry and Accord in this case. Patiently waiting while everyone else drops out won’t give H/K any more sales.

    You can see this in the US minivan market which has been Odyssey, Pacifica (Caravan), Sienna three-way forever, station wagon consolidating to 86% Outback, and the Japanese large minivan market with Alphard getting all the pie.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Sonata/Optima/K5 combined in its best years only came in 3rd, close behind Accord sales as H/K simply didn’t have the production capacity of Toyota or Honda in the States.

      Hyundai has since halted Sonata production here to make way for other models.

      As for minivans, the Carnival is the one where demand far outstrips supply and that should only increase (both demand and supply) when the hybrid variant goes into production.

  • avatar
    OA5599

    “Annalists?”

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “The reason given is that Hyundai Motor Group (which includes Kia) is targeting annual sales of more than 3 million electric vehicles globally by 2030 and needs to free up space in its lineup for EVs.”

    Sounds extremely unlikely given Hyundai’s 2021 global sales were 3,890,981. Even if Hyundai is assuming its sales will drastically increase (say to an even 6,000,000) *half* of all sales will be EV? Maybe more because conventional sales will be less than 3 million and its Hyundai market share will be even higher? Hyundai will be fortunate if its sales are around what they are at current, I personally don’t see EV share being very high and any EV sales being exclusive to markets who seek to [tyrannically] require it. This also assumes there is a semi-civilized world in seven years.

    https://www.best-selling-cars.com/global/2021-full-year-global-hyundai-worldwide-car-sales-and-2022-forecast/

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel.w.leigh

      Europe and the UK are banning ICE vehicles by 2030, many Asian countries are doing the same. EVs already represent 20% of the market in China and the UK, more so in some European countries. Basically the US is left as one of the only major regions without a commitment to EV… I would wager 80%+ of Hyundai’s sales will be EV by 2030.

  • avatar
    teddyc73

    Um, no, they didn’t say “nah”. Can we just stop with the whole stupid “nah” thing?

  • avatar
    AK

    I test drove a 22′ G70 3.3t yesterday.

    Car was pretty decent. I’m not sure why anyone would buy the Kia version over it. Might as well give it the axe.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Stinger has consistently outsold the G70 despite its less popular liftback bodystyle.

      Pre-G70 facelift, the Stinger looked better and had roomier 2nd row, as well as being more utilitarian with the hatch.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    S#!+box. Who cares

  • avatar
    EX35

    Meh. The one I drove was mediocre and seemed overpriced for what it was. H/K just doesn’t have the value they used to and quality just isn’t up to Toyota.

  • avatar
    rajac8227

    I thought sedans were popular again due to the Tesla Model 3 and Model S?

    Ford don’t offer the Chinese-built Mondeo sedan as electric in the US or Canada, and Hyundai seems to have axed the Sonata (surely they could just have kept the name for an EV sedan?).

    Ford and GM going mostly SUV is an attempt at competing with Jeep or Land Rover but a risky strategy at times too.

    The BMW i3 sedan sold in China isn’t available in the US or Canada, unfortunately, never mind here in the UK. With its 281hp / 210kW electric motor surely it would have been powerful enough?

    Volvo seem to be doing OK with the S60, but they’ve got 66 years of history making sedans dating back to the Amazon version. Unfortunately the big-name retailer probably means they won’t use it given their new philosophy of model names not numbers. But the upcoming 2023-2024 S60 shown in British magazines as renderings looks good. I’d probably go for the all-electric one.

    Back in 2004 as a 22-year-old I wanted one but couldn’t afford a brand-new S60 SE model!

    Kia probably may regret it if trends change.

    SUVs won’t be trendy forever. Some of them are more like jacked-up hatchbacks – for example, the Mitsubishi ASX/Outlander Sport which is ending production soon, or the Renault Captur, which is probably an SUV in name only.

    Incidentally, would the Kia EV6 be their only sedan aside from the Rio and Forte/Cerato?

    I haven’t heard anything about production of the K8 winding down yet, but that’s probably a foregone conclusion with the EV6 being heavily promoted.

    The K9 got axed in the US due to slow sales.

    If Kia had good electric sedans with decent range, I’d probably buy one; the Kia Pegas would be good for families, but would anyone buy an AWD electric crossover-y sedan version since that seems to be en vogue here in the UK with the Ford Fiesta and Focus Active models?

    Just a shame Kia is possibly ending a 35-year history of midsize sedans and Hyundai its 37-year run.

    I hope Toyota keeps the Camry going as an EV sedan when the current model goes. Sure, the current car failed here in the UK market but in the US and Canada it’s popular.

    Doesn’t it have enough name-brand recognition to be kept on as a sedan?

    I wouldn’t want to see the name recycled on another crossover model; surely, CH-R and the original crossover RAV4 are enough?

  • avatar

    Good to know, there will be less engine fires which is a plus.

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