The Las Vegas Caesar's Palace Hotel served as the venue for the 2000 Kia Motors America U.S. Dealers Conference. Held on Nov. 10, this year's edition of the annual conference was the largest ever attracting 596 dealers from across the United States. The event was hosted by Kia Motors President Kim Soo-Joong, KMA President Ahn Byung-Mo and Park Sung-Do, head of the export division at Seoul headquarters.
The event provided company management with an opportunity to unveil the new mid-size sedan Optima which is scheduled to be shipped to the U.S. market soon and to sound out dealers' views on Kia products and strategy. KMA officials briefed dealers on future product plans and announced Kia's U.S. sales target for the coming year: 284,000 units, equivalent to a 40 percent increase over the current year.
President Kim explained that management is strongly committed to reaching the export goal under any circumstances. To this end, he said, the company is planning to update existing models and to add new models to the lineup. New products in the pipeline include the Sedona minivan (badged as the Carnival in the Korean and other markets) and the Optima mid-size sedan. In 2001, the Sephia will be updated with the New Sephia (Spectra in the Korean market) and the New Spectra Wing. President Kim added that these new products should help the company shed its image as a manufacturer of low-priced small cars. Also, management explained that it is aiming to expand the U.S. sales network from the current 596 dealerships to 660 next year.
KMA has now grown into a major competitor in the U.S. market operating a total of 596 dealers and posting average annual sales of 2.4 billion dollars, President Kim noted. This is remarkable considering we first started business in the U.S. in1994 as a small startup with only 25 staff and 5 dealers, he pointed out. Kia will continue with diligent effort to promote its brand image and to produce better-quality products, in order to compete with the major players on a equal footing in the U.S. market, he promised.
KMA's meteoric sales growth this year has also accelerated the push for a greater variety of promotional activities. For example, the company has rewarded a total of 262 dealers with incentive trips to Korea providing them with an opportunity not only to tour Kia's advanced manufacturing facilities and witness its growing corporate competitiveness, but also to give them a first-hand experience of Korea's traditional culture. In addition, the company participated in all four--Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and Miami--car shows this year.
With the launch of the Optima later this year, Kia will be competing head-on in the mid-size segment with the major global players in the U.S. market which has been considered the ultimate battleground for automakers. We will step up our efforts to completely shed our previous corporate as a maker of low-priced cars. All in all, we are highly confident of achieving another record sales growth year, President Kim concluded.