SEOUL (Reuters) - Korean auto-maker Kia Motors Corp (000270.KS) plans to upgrade and reshape its popular midsize Kia Sorento crossover by the end of the year and is planning to market the model in markets other than the United States by 2020.
A general view of the front of the Kia Sorento at a Kia Motors dealership in Seoul, South Korea, December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
The moves come as the U.S. market has been sluggish and China’s market is slowing, eroding Sorento’s high-profit share and other Kia vehicles.
The Sorento will get a more rugged external appearance and improved ride and handling, to better compete with German competitors.
“This is not necessarily a pivot for a longer term rebuilding,” Mok Do-yeon, vice president of Kia’s “sporty utility vehicle” division told reporters on Friday. “The recovery in overseas markets and the launch of the next generation Sorento is.”
South Korea’s top automaker, Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS), is expected to unveil a redesigned sibling of its HCD-14 sport utility vehicle this month.
Mok said the design of the new Sorento would be similar to the current model, with the exterior styling showing Kia’s efforts to help “anyone who wants to get more from their car”.
The new Sorento will hit showrooms later this year and the updated versions would follow in 2021, Mok said.
The new model will come with a “definitely smoother ride,” he said, and also see improvements in its handling to reduce steering inputs.
Mok did not disclose a price for the model.
The company plans to launch the new Sorento in China by 2020, he said, adding that the company has seen growing demand for the current model in other markets such as South Korea, Australia and Thailand.
Mok added the company aims to gradually bring the model to Latin America, southeast Asia and the Middle East.
“There have been no major changes in our product offerings as of now,” he said.
Mok said Kia remains confident the U.S. market will recover as concerns regarding rising tariffs lift. He also pointed to improving consumer sentiment in China.
Kia has been updating its vehicle portfolios as parent Hyundai has been under heavy pressure to turn around its lost U.S. market share due to competition from rivals such as Nissan Motor Co (7201.T).
The top Korean automaker and its affiliate Hyundai Motor posted weak annual earnings in December, as sluggish sales across most markets offset a buoyant Chinese market.