Kia is planning to create a family of GT performance models as part of a model expansion designed to capitalise on healthy Australian demand for go-fast vehicles.
Kia Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith says the fast growing South Korean brand is working on GT versions of upcoming new models to create halo models within the range.
“We’d rather have a mainstream GT-type product rather than a one-off like the Kia Procee’d was,” says Meredith, referencing the shortlived Procee’d GT that was designed predominantly for the European market.
Unlike sister brand Hyundai – which in 2017 will launch the N performance brand – Meredith says there are no plans for a sub-brand for performance models.
“We’ve got a different strategy … we’d like to have a GT Picanto, a GT Rio, a GT Cerato … rather than have a specific sub-brand. I don’t think we’re strong enough yet to have a sub-brand.”
Not that the Kia GT models will be lacking substance.
Meredith says they will have “real” performance modifications, including more powerful engines.
Kia currently offers a single GT model in the Optima; it gets a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 180kW and 350Nm.
Meredith wouldn’t be drawn on which Kia models would get the GT treatment, but said it would depend on where they sit in their model life cycle.
He hinted the current shape Cerato, which has been on sale for a few years, would likely get the GT modifications with an all-new model, expected around 2019.
But with an all-new Kia Picanto and Rio due in 2017, he said they might be towards the top of the list for a GT performance model.
“It’s a while away, but we’ll get there,” says Meredith.
Some of it will be playing catch-up following the demise of the Procee’d GT, a Euro-focused three-door hatchback that utilised a unique independent rear suspension system and a 150kW 1.6-litre turbo. The lack of an auto transmission option and a five-door body style limited its appeal, but proved Kia could create an appealing performance machine.
The GT models are all about continuing and capitalising on the sales momentum Kia has enjoyed over the last two years. In 2015 sales grew 20 percent over 2014 and for the first 10 months of 2016 sales are up 27 percent.
The brand is expecting double digit growth to continue in 2017 before slowing.
However, Kia will battle for some time with some gaping holes in its model lineup; a Kia small SUV planned for Europe is not yet confirmed for Australia, with Meredith saying the earliest it could happen is 2018.
And Kia also has no firm plans for a ute, something seven of the top ten selling brands have.