DETROIT – On the fence last year, a production version of the Kia rear-wheel drive GT concept car is “looking good” for the U.S., a top Kia official tells WardsAuto.
“It’s not officially confirmed, but based on all the feedback we got it looks good,” Michael Sprague, Kia Motors America vice president-marketing, says during an interview at the 2012 North American International Auto Show here.
Reaction to the car at both the Frankfurt and Los Angeles auto shows, where it was displayed last year, is making the car more likely to see a U.S.-market launch, Sprague says.
“That, I think, was very encouraging to (Kia headquarters) in terms of, ‘Wow, we really should take a look at this quite seriously (for the U.S.).’”
During an August media trip in South Korea, senior Kia Korea-based officials said a production version of the coupe-styled sedan was destined for major markets, including the U.S. But Kia’s U.S. officials weren’t so sure, talking instead of wanting to establish the Optima as a strong competitor to existing midsize sedans before jumping into a near-luxury segment.
Even if the RWD car is given the green light for the U.S., it likely won’t come to market anytime soon, says Sprague, who considers a launch before spring 2013 “probably too early.
“We need to do our due diligence to look at the competitive set and what it’s going to take to compete in that segment and continue the brand transformation.”
Meanwhile, Sprague announces, the Optima sedan should see its first 100,000-unit sales year in 2012, despite production constraints.
If the Optima reaches the 100,000 mark, it would become the third Kia to do so after the Sorento midsize cross/utility vehicle in 2010 and Soul compact car last year.
Kia sold 84,590 Optimas in the U.S. in 2011, WardsAuto data shows, more than triple its 2010 volume.