U.S. sales results, at least those that we know of, were a mixed bag in July. Automakers foreign and domestic are busy replenishing inventories drained by a two-month shutdown of U.S. manufacturing; for many, the restocking can’t come soon enough.
At Kia Motors’s West Point, Georgia plant, production of the Telluride crossover got underway again in May, and the automaker can barely keep up with demand. Cox Automotive (via CNN) reported two weeks ago that the country’s Kia dealers report an average 15-day supply of the unexpectedly popular model. That’s tight, to say the least.
But the Telluride isn’t the only vehicle lifting Kia’s fortunes in the wake of the shutdown.
Awards mean damn little around here, as most “official” accolades foisted upon various models carry as much weight as a gnat. The GM X-body once boasted a well-stocked trophy case.
And that’s the way it remains, for now and forever, though the recipient of the most recent big-ticket award deserves mention, if only because it reinforces a conclusion this writer landed on months ago.
My review of the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride last year was mostly positive.
There’s a reason for this – I thought it was pretty damn good. Especially given its price point, and that it was Kia coming up with a very good three-row crossover, seemingly out of nowhere.
Yep, Kia, a brand that hadn’t been a player in this segment since its last attempt, a body-on-frame SUV called Borrego, ran into the economic headwinds of the Great Recession. Kia had help from corporate partner Hyundai – that brand’s Palisade is the more urbane sibling to Telluride – but still, Kia’s reentry to the segment seemed remarkable.
After living with the Telluride for a week as opposed to a day, that remains true.
You read here how 2019 was a buoyant year for corporate siblings Hyundai and Kia; both brands posted full-year sales gains, and both can thank new, large crossover vehicles for the added volume. The higher prices demanded by the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride will certainly be appreciated by the automakers’ beancounters, too.
Of the two midsizers, one possesses an enhanced level of gravitas. A little more panache and youth appeal. And it’s no secret which one we’re referring to — which is why an industry rumor has us thinking that an uplevel version is something worth pursuing.
The other day, we told you about Subaru bucking the industry’s cooling trend to scratch out yet another record year-end sales tally. A full year of Ascent production catapulted the brand over a hurdle that, without the new model, it would have failed to clear.
Nothing beats a new three-row crossover for hiking sales, boosting ATPs, and growing margins.
It’s something the members of Hyundai Motor Group know well. Both Hyundai and Kia have a brace of crossovers to thank for the solid sales gains enjoyed in 2019.
Kia’s brand-new Telluride crossover is subject to a recall affecting 30,168 units after some vehicles were presumed to have the incorrect restraint assemblies installed. Considering the model has only been on sale a few months, with U.S. deliveries totaling 27,786 through July, the recall affects every Telluride manufactured before and August 5th. That means if you’ve purchased one, it’s probably included.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documentation suggests a number of American-spec models may have received seat belt assemblies designed for the Middle East. While that sounds like a minor problem, the issue is that those units lack an automatic locking retractor (ALR) necessary for securing child seats. It’s also the component that obnoxiously pins you to the chair anytime the driver taps the brakes or when you attempt to lean forward too quickly.
Life is often a matter of timing. Ask Kia about the difference between the 2020 Kia Telluride crossover and its last attempt at something similar – the Kia Borrego.
Remember the Borrego?
I do. That body-on-frame SUV wasn’t a poor vehicle – I drove one, briefly, and liked it – but it came to market right as the Great Recession and a rapid rise in gas prices were conspiring to work against expensive, gas-guzzling SUVs. Sure, plenty of nameplates survived the carnage, but a newcomer like the Borrego, produced by a brand once known for cheap compact cars, had no chance against those market headwinds.
Enter the Telluride, which is so different from the Borrego that about the only things they have in common are class, amount of seating rows, engine displacement, and door count. Unlike the body-on-frame Borrego, the unibody Telluride is entering a market where the winds are a bit more favorable – crossovers are still hot and there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon.
So Kia won’t have to worry about fighting an uphill battle, at least in terms of market forces. It’s going to be all about the product this time. And the product is quite good.
Korean automakers have a history of labelling their crossovers and SUVs with names ripped from rugged-sounding towns of the American mid- and southwest. Witness the Santa Fe and Tucson. The newest entrant? Telluride. Even the little-known Borrego Pass got a nod during the five minutes in which Kia built a body-on-frame brute.
Until now, the most we’ve seen of the new Kia Telluride was that oddball New York fashion week thing, replete with a not-from-factory rear spare tire carrier and leather hood straps. Now that the build and price site’s gone live, we can see the model without all that froufrou. You know we’re most interested in the base LX model…
Built with the sprawling American lifestyle in mind, Kia’s range-topping Telluride doesn’t deploy any fancy tricks to lower its fuel consumption. With EPA fuel economy figures for the 2020 Telluride now out, the three-row midsizer can rest assured that few consumers will take its thirst as a selling point or deal breaker.
Is it possible to be more American that a Kia Telluride? Probably not. Clint Eastwood drove one in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. John Rambo rolled into a small, Northwestern town behind the wheel of one shortly after his repatriation. John Wayne owned two, and the Telluride was the first vehicle to storm Omaha Beach. From its exhaust pipes come clouds of red, white, and blue.
Folks, this vehicle is more American than a bald eagle eating apple pie on July 4th. It is the three-row SUV that rowed across the Potomac to get to a dealership near you, and don’t you forget it.
By now, you’ve probably read all about Matt’s adventures in fashion, but the unexpected reveal of Kia’s upcoming Telluride SUV during New York City’s Fashion Week has me reeling. And it shouldn’t.
It shouldn’t, because alluring concept vehicle morph into far less savory production vehicles all the time. Or, in the case of Buick and Cadillac’s concepts, they morph back into the invisible nothingness from which they came. Spy photos of the Telluride pointed us towards an expectation of what appeared on Sunday.
Still, it hurts. Why?
You’ve already forgotten about the Borrego, so this large, hulking Kia is sure to impress, if for no other reason than its dimensions.
Photographed in Orange County, the square-rigged three-row you see above is the upcoming Kia Telluride, a range-topping crossover first teased in concept form at the 2016 North American International Auto Show. At the time, the concept’s almost showroom-ready outward appearance (normal side mirrors!) signalled Kia’s intent to put the Telluride into production. Two Kia execs essentially confirmed it earlier this year.
Expected to debut next year as a 2020 model, this is our first glimpse of Kia’s newest beast.