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It’s been a long time coming, but this year there’s every chance that Kia could outsell its sister brand Hyundai in Australia.
This was unthinkable just five years ago in 2016, with Hyundai sitting pretty in third place but trying hard to knock Mazda from second, while Kia had just edged out Mercedes-Benz (and Honda) to slide into the top 10.
My how things have changed. To the end of September 2021, Hyundai has racked up 54,169 sales and Kia has captured 53,316. For those counting at home, that’s 853 units difference with three sales months to go before the end of the year.
These figures place Hyundai fourth and Kia fifth so far. The two Korean giants aren’t the only brands in this tight race.
But the real battle is Hyundai versus Kia. Yes, they are part of the same massive Hyundai Motor Group and share back-end functions as well as vehicle platforms and powertrains, but they are still rivals.
Back in 2016, Kia Australia’s chief operating officer Damien Meredith was talking up Kia’s ambitions to hit 50,000 annual sales by the end of 2018 – a feat it achieved a year earlier in 2017.
Since then, Kia has achieved another goal of nabbing a five per cent market share. It currently occupies a 6.5 per cent slice of the Australian market.
But so far, a top-five year-end finish has eluded Kia. It just missed out in 2020 after being pipped for the spot by Mitsubishi which sold 2259 more vehicles.
The first time Kia outsold Hyundai in Australia was March last year, but the ‘little sibling’ brand has sold more vehicles than Hyundai four out of nine months this year.
With just 853 units separating the brands in Australia this year, it’s going to come down to vehicle supply. COVID-19 and the semi-conductor shortage have caused havoc across the industry and the two Koreans are not immune. A number of key models from both brands are heavily delayed with wait times stretching out to six months or more for higher grade variants of some popular models. Stock for entry grade variants of entry models is looking much better for both brands.
However, Kia has an ace up its sleeve in the new-generation Sportage. It will launch to market in October with first delivers expected in early November and a Kia spokesperson told us that supply for this year is looking pretty good. Thanks to a bold new design, there’s a lot of buzz around the new Sportage and it’s in a hot segment.
Both brands are coy about their year-end sales targets, given the supply challenges.
A Hyundai Australia spokesperson said the brand was focused on meeting its own targets rather than staying ahead of Kia on the sales charts.
Kia Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith said he expects to achieve close to the monthly average sales of 2021 for the remaining months of the year.
“Supply will determine those positions and we haven’t been consumed about our yearly position. Market share will be 6.3 per cent,” he said.
Looking at the segments that Kia and Hyundai compete in, each brand has strengths and weaknesses.
In terms of passenger cars, Hyundai has the second top-selling small car in the country with the i30 on 19,134 sales so far this year. This has been boosted by a change in name of the Elantra to i30 sedan. Kia’s Cerato is third on 14,802.
Hyundai and Kia have come a long way since their humble beginnings in Australia. No longer bargain-basement brands offering average-at-best motoring for buyers on a budget, Hyundai and Kia have morphed into appealing brands in their own right, competing with the likes of Toyota, Mazda, Subaru, Nissan, Honda and Volkswagen.
Hyundai launched Down Under in 1986, selling just one model through a single Perth dealership. Kia landed in 1988, selling a total of 60 vehicles that year.
As Hyundai started to improve the overall quality of its vehicles, Kia was seen as the also-ran, until a former Audi designer changed its fortunes. Peter Schreyer took the reins of Kia design in 2006, and transformed the brand with striking new models like the third-generation Optima, Rio and Sportage at the beginning of the 2010s.
Since then, Kia has gained ground on its sister brand. This is despite the fact Hyundai is supposed to be the lead brand in the group, with Kia the support act. New premium brand Genesis is now in the mix as well.
Hyundai’s total global sales in 2020 were 3.74 million, a 15.4 per cent dip compared with 2019, while Kia hit 2.61 million units, representing a 5.9 per cent slide.
In the majority of global markets that both brands have a presence, Hyundai sells more vehicles than Kia. But that’s changing.
In their home market of South Korea, Hyundai is king, with Kia yet to overtake its sister brand for annual sales. Hyundai is also more popular in the United States, with the two brands separated by 34,000 sales last year. In the United Kingdom, however, Kia takes top honours for the Korean brands. It finished 2020 in ninth place with 70,537 sales, while Hyundai was relegated to 13th with 47,507.