TTAC Product Planning Advice: The Kia Stonic and Soul Edition

It seems so obvious as to be unmistakable. You’ve been selling an unexpectedly successful Kia Soul for nearly a decade, turning it from what was thought to be a niche-market idea into one of your most popular products.

Do that again.

Hence, here cometh the Kia Stonic. It’s not bound for America, at least not yet, but the Stonic serves elsewhere as the Kia version of the Hyundai Kona. Only unlike the Kona, the Stonic is — like the Soul — a front-wheel-drive subcompact-based “utility vehicle.”

Cargo volume? Virtually identical, at 12.4 cubic feet for the Stonic and 12.5 cubic feet for the Soul. Pricing? In the United Kingdom, the Soul stretches from £14,310 to £23,565, starting slightly below the Stonic’s £16,295 entry point and rising above the Stonic’s top-spec £20,495 price.

This overlap in price, mission, and size is exactly what the doctor ordered, so we have a few vital recommendations for Kia’s rivals.

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No More Niches: German Luxury Lineups Likely To Shrink, Not Expand

Choice is good for car buyers. But in the never-ending quest to produce incremental volume gains, the planet’s largest premium auto brands agree that certain niches are quickly becoming untenable.

Known for questioning in 2014 whether the global sports car market would ever recover from its post-recession collapse, BMW sales boss Ian Robertson told Car And Driver earlier this month that “some body styles will be removed in the future.”

Meanwhile, the head of Mercedes-Benz Dieter Zetsche said at the Geneva auto show that the lack of Chinese uptake for specialty cars “makes the business case for these vehicles less easy.”

Yet long before a model cull returns us to the days of tidy luxury lineups — 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, and 8 Series as the 1990s intended! — premium German marques will first introduce a slew of new models. And the body styles destined for removal? Likely not the silly four-door coupes and impractical SUVs you love to hate.

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Dwindling Cabriolet Market Affecting Automakers, Suppliers Alike

If you’re a fan of convertibles, then you may find your selection dwindling as more consumers go for a different image, affecting automakers and suppliers alike.

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A Reflection on Niche Vehicles

Discussions of GM’s “small” pickup touch on several deep issues. One is the nature of competition in the industry at the OEM level: to what extent is it an oligopoly, in the sense that each firm takes explicit account of the anticipated behavior of rivals in their product planning? The other is as murky, what is the cost structure of the industry? Neither is readily observed, even by executives at the Toyotas and GMs of the world.

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  • Tane94 If there is market demand, build the vehicle. That's what Ford is doing. Kudos
  • Cprescott Looking like that? Egads
  • The Oracle This thing got porky quick.
  • Kwi65728132 I'll grant that it's nicely kept but I'm not a fan of the bangle butt designs, and I know better than to buy a used BMW while living anywhere in the world other than in the fatherland where these are as common as any Honda or Toyota is anywhere else.
  • ChristianWimmer When these came out I thought they were hideous: now they’ve grown on me. This one looks pretty nice. Well-maintained, low mileage and some good-looking wheels that aren’t super fancy but not cheap-looking or boring either, they are just right.