Kia scored a first at the start of 2022. In January, the south Korean car maker became the best-selling brand in the UK. A first in its 30-year history.
In total, Kia sold 10,504 units and achieved its highest-ever market share of 9.1 per cent. What’s more, fleet has played a large role in that success.
That wasn’t always the case. When head of fleet John Hargreaves first joined the company 11 years ago, Kia was fundamentally a retail brand. But an increasing range of fleet focused models, and a greater emphasis on the corporate sector, has helped rebalance the sales between retail and fleet
With businesses rapidly pivoting to electric vehicles thanks to lower whole life costs, and attractive tax breaks for company car drivers, fleet demand for EVs has been increasing and this has unquestionably assisted Kia.
“We’ve had our shortages of EVs,” explains Hargreaves, “but we’ve managed our position well - last year we had 5.8% UK market share with 6.5% in fleet - and that was partly to do with car availability.
“We are still in a good position of supply but the wait for an EV depends on customer requirements. We have some vehicles in stock, while the worst case wait for the award-winning EV6 is 12 months if someone wants the car to a particular specification.”
It should also be said that Kia has very effectively filled a position vacated by some of the premium European OEMs. As vehicle availability has strangled supply, leading to the disappearance of discounts on European premium fleet favorites, leasing costs have risen, allowing the likes of Kia to gain a growing fleet foothold with attractive products, keener costs and, crucially, vehicle availability.
But the picture is more complex that just EVs. Hargreaves says fleet managers are looking for cost-effective solutions for their transport requirements.
“We offer all power trains and can therefore offer relatively impartial advice to fleet managers. In return they get a solid TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) proposition, good in life experience and a driver reaction that is positive to the product, along with a network of 190 dealers to support them. Our fleet hero car was the Sportage even though it was on run out last year it remained the best-selling fleet car, followed by the e-Niro.”
He also says that while the pandemic had changed the method of communication with the company’s 250 customers with fleets of more than 50 vehicles - which includes leasing companies - he believes Kia continues to have a “solid base” of strong relationships.
But while relationships are solid, Hargreaves sees the role of Kia continuing to develop as a fleet supplier.
“Clearly we will move with the market to supply more hybrid vehicles and battery electric vehicles as fleet demand changes, but we also see ourselves as a mobility solutions provider as well as an OEM. To help with some of the short term mobility solutions we are now dealing with some of the specialist mobility companies and we’re also amending our own dealer rental program to provide short term mobility. Fleet managers can now access hourly rental through our dealers,” he says.
Lack of vehicle availability is just one of the issues fleet managers are facing this year in what has been described as a year of constant uncertainty. So what coping tips would Hargreaves give to fleet managers?
“I think costs will go up, there’s no doubt about that. Cost rises will hit upfront and inlife costs. So fleet managers need to make an arrangement with suppliers who can be trusted, suppliers that will honor commitments whether it’s vehicles, SMR, aftersales. Having stable and trustworthy suppliers is crucial, especially during such an uncertain period.”
There’s little likelihood that the Kia brand’s success will stutter or falter anytime soon. The fifth-gen Sporatge is now available, which includes a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid due soon, while the Kia EV6 continues to gather accolades.
It has just been named the 2022 Car of the Year in the prestigious Car of the Year (COTY) awards. It is the first Kia to win the award.
The EV6 is the first of seven dedicated EV models Kia plans to launch by 2026. “The all-electric crossover will play a key role in Kia’s plans to become a leading global sustainable mobility solutions provider,” adds Hargreaves