In what was a dismal fiscal for India Auto Inc, which posted a sharp decline of 18 percent year-on-year in overall vehicle sales in FY2020, there were only a few redeeming features. One was the utility vehicle (UV) segment, which was the sole sub-segment among passenger vehicles to record a positive, albeit flat, growth (0.48 percent) and the rip-roaring performance of Kia Motors India.
In the short span of 8 months, the Korean carmaker, sister brand to Hyundai Motor India, grabbed an 8.97 percent share of the UV market with sale of 84,903 units (81,716 Seltos SUV and 3,187 Carnival MPV), becoming the new No. 4 UV player after Maruti Suzuki India (24.87 percent), Mahindra & Mahindra (18.96 percent) and Hyundai Motor India (18.69 percent), but ahead of more well-established OEMs like Toyota Kirloskar Motor (7.07 percent), Tata Motors (6.28 percent) and Ford India (4.68 percent).
Interestingly, put Hyundai and Kia's UV market shares together and what you get is 27.66 percent, which is a tad higher than market leader Maruti Suzuki. Imagine what Kia's sales and market share would have been in happier times in the Indian automobile market.
What helped Kia in India was its judicious market and product plan. Right from setting up the 3,00,000 units per annum state-of-the-art plant in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh to launching the Seltos in end-August, across 18 variants and multiple price-points, the company seems to have made the right moves and also caught the competition napping.
From August 2019 to end-March 2020, the carmaker has sold 81,716 Seltos SUVs, which makes for monthly sales of 10,214 units and the No. 1 UV title too. On February 5, 2020, Kia launched its second product for India: the luxurious Carnival MPV. Priced Rs 24.95 lakh (ex-showroom, India) and topping off at Rs 33.95 lakh, the Carnival secured 3,187 units sales in two months.
This remarkable performance, that too in hugely depressed market conditions, has given the Kia brand a new stature in India. What's more, the carmaker's success in India is seeing it rise up in the ladder in Kia Motors' global scheme of things. In February 2020, its domestic market sales of 15,664 units – its highest sales in 7 months – saw it account for 8.33 percent of Kia Motors' global sales of 187,844 units (-5 percent YoY).
Readying new Sonet for launch in H2 2020
For 2020, Kia Motors is targeting global sales of 2.96 million units, with a ‘golden cycle’ of new models helping the company counter the low-growth trend across the global auto industry. In August 2020, the Korean carmaker will launch its third model in India, the Sonet compact SUV. The tech-laden Hyundai Venue and Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza fighter, available with a wide range of powertrains, is expected to carry a sticker price of about Rs 7-11.5 lakh (estimated, ex-showroom).
This year, both calendar and fiscal, is set to see difficult times what with the impact of coronavirus, dampened economic sentiment, and what could be a marked shift in consumers preferring to book online against visiting showrooms in a time of social distancing. But expect Kia to sort out that challenge, as well as a new one from Maruti Suzuki – the Vitara Brezza's exit from diesel and entry into petrol.
With the country-wide lockdown extended to May 3, April sales will be a washout. But you can be sure that Kia and its UV competition will be strategising ways to snatch market share. Watch this space for more.