Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fierce Battle in SUV Sector

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fierce Battle in SUV Sector

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Hughes

THE changing fortunes of car companies fighting for a slice of the action in the fastestgrowing sector of the market is illustrated by latest figures from Kia which reveal the soaring popularity of so-called lesser brands.

Once dominated by the likes of BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover and Audi, the highly-lucrative SUV sector of the market is now being increasingly infiltrated by brands not normally associated with the upmarket images for which punters were once prepared to pay a handsome premium.

Models such as the BMW X1, X3 and X5 plus the Audi Q3, Q5 and Q7 are being increasingly challenged by a raft of rivals that do the same job for less money.

The shift is illustrated by the recent arrival of the new Kia Sorento, which is proving to be a sales sensation at the very top of its market.

Since its arrival here in spring it has attracted a record 1,300 buyers in comparison to the company's forecast of just 1,000. However, what is even more surprising is that the flagship PS41,500 model being the most popular of all.

Remarkably, the highest-specification KX-4 version now accounts for almost half of every Sorento bought in Britain, and when the KX-3 version is added to the mix, the figure rises to more than 60% of total sales.

This means that the top-of-therange KX-4 version is snapped up by 10 times as many Sorento buyers as the cheapest entry-level KX-1 model. It puts Kia in the unusual position of having to place eager buyers on to a waiting list for the most expensive models, who are prepared to wait rather than switching to rival vehicles from premium brands for similar money.

Kia Motors UK president Paul Philpott says: "The success of the new Sorento has seen demand surpass our expectations, which is a nice problem to have, but it means waiting times for KX-4 Sorento customers is longer than originally expected.'' Kia is not the only brand to enjoy soaring success in this sector of the market, as illustrated by fellow Korean company Hyundai, which makes the Santa Fe and Tucson models and whose sales have risen by almost 10% this year.

Such is the faith in the quality of their products that Korean car companies offer warranties of up to seven years, which can be transferred from one owner to another, in sharp contrast to the shorter warranties offered by the premium brands. …

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