Talking to Car Dealer, Phillpot, who’s currently chief operating officer for Kia Europe and will become president and CEO of Kia Motors UK in July, said that by going into premium segments Kia would be moving away from its ‘heart’.
‘I think premium is a dangerous word,’ said Phillpot. ‘I’ve lived in Germany for three years, and the likes of BMW, Mercedes, Audi, and JLR are true premium brands which command a 10,000 euro price tag over a Ford or an Opel.
‘I think this is not where Kia should go. I think Kia can become more premium in the mainstream segment, but Kia will always be a mainstream brand. Whatever kind of investment we would have to implement to make ourselves premium, we would never be able to compete with premium brands,’ he added.
Phillpot admitted he admired Volkswagen for its ability to be a volume brand that commands a price premium over its competitors, and pointed to the Audi A1 as an example of the disadvantages of moving away from a brand’s heart.
‘We can’t exit from a car like the Picanto because we need the volume – so we can’t both stretch to premium and push volume,’ said Phillpot. ‘It’s the same dilemma Audi has: How can you push premium down to the A1? BMW can because they have Mini.’
Phillpot also revealed that the recently-launched Optima is ‘as large a Kia should go’, and on whether the Korean firm would launch a Hyundai-like Genesis brand to overcome premium concerns, Phillpot replied: ‘It’s not for Kia.’
‘One thing we are really pushing for is more sporting powertrains in our mainstream products,’ explained Phillpot.
‘Cars like Rio and Cee’d could take a hot hatch version, and as markets like the UK and Germany leave the recession behind, demand for these types of products will come back.
‘I think it’s right for Kia to go sporting with hot hatch versions of Rio and Cee’d, and we need a sports car. A roadster or a coupe would be right for Kia – but we need to find the right time to do it, and any sports car would have to appeal to all markets, not just Europe’.
Phillpot added: ‘Knowing we’ve got a C-Segment MPV coming, it is our priority to fill the niches of a sports car and a Trackster-like car which appeal to younger buyers, and introduce hot hatch versions of our B and C-Segment offerings.’