KIA has been continuing to grow in Europe. On the occasion of the launch of the all-new Rio, we asked Mark Howlett, Manager Fleet Sales, KIA Motor Europe, about his company’s fleet ambitions.
You have just launched the all-new KIA Rio. What is the importance of the B-segment for fleets?
This is obviously a very important segment in general, in terms of size and scale. It caters to different needs, both private and fleet. We see it as being important in terms of company pool vehicles among others, facility vehicles, even airports. It is also an important segment for organisations such as driving schools, and it is particularly relevant where SME’s are concerned. In short, the B-segment offers cost advantages, fuel economy and so on, which are vital to many types of organisations and fleets. And there is more to the driving schools aspect than meets the eye: most people begin their driving careers in a B-segment car, and always retain an affection for this size of car.
B-segment cars, including the new Rio, are getting bigger. Is there not a chance of crossover with your very important C-segment cee’d?
There may indeed be a possibility of crossover in some countries, and with some of the fleet segments I have just mentioned. I think that where the cee’d really stands on its own two feet, though, is in its ability to provide that little extra versatility, the extra capacity over a smaller car such as the Rio. In general terms, though, I think that the C-segment profile will always look towards the slightly bigger car. This is especially true when you are looking at job-need cars, utility fleets and so on. In these cases they need a little more space, and the C-segment, along with its estate cars, offers this. So depending on need, and on what user-choosers like, I think these segments still cater for two separate markets. Where the B-segment and the Rio are concerned, people have high expectations in terms of style, connectivity, value for money, and we believe we are providing this with the fourth generation Rio.
Turning to your overall range, you have the new Picanto, this new Rio, the cee’d, the new Optima and of course the best-selling Sportage. Do you now cover all fleet needs?
Yes, and I think the real big tick in the box was the Optima Wagon, especially in markets such as Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and Scandinavia. We had been lacking that versatile D-segment car, and now that we have that we feel that we’ve arrived at the point where we can offer a full range to fleets. We are still going to strengthen further in fleets where KIA is concerned, by entering the executive space. We launched the all-new KIA Stinger at the Detroit Motor Show a short while ago. This will compete with the premium brands, but with a bit more sportiness. So we are still trying to cover more bases.
What are your latest ambitions in the European fleet market?
Well 2016 was a very strong year for us. We are coming from a position of being a major player in the private market, and our mix is still about 44% fleet to 56% private, so there’s still some progress we can make.
The brand made total sales of 436,000 in Europe in 2016, which is 13% up on the previous year. Fleet sales growth, however, was double this, at 26%! Our targets for total sales – with an increasing fleet volume – are 460,000 units this year, and 500,000 in 2018.