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Rio: Kia's $14,990 charmer has plenty of kit and more doors than most competitor entry models.

Kia hopes to boost sales with its small people-mover the Carens and a new Rio

3 Jul 2000

KIA will fire the first shot in the small people-mover war when the Carens six-seater goes on sale this week priced at $22,990.

The bulky-looking Carens is no stripper, having power steering, central locking, air-conditioning and driver airbag all standard.

The managing director of Kia Motors Australia, Mr Ric Hull, expects to sell up to 300 cars a month initially but says that once more rivals get into the market it should grow further.

Gridding up for the small people-mover category in 2001 are Holden with the Zafira, Citroen with Picasso, Mazda with Premacy and Daweoo with Rezzo/Tacuma.

Chrysler's PT Cruiser is already on sale and Honda and VW potentially have competitors in the wings. All but the seven-seater Zafira have five seats, Carens has six.

Giving Kia an even bigger leg up the popularity ladder is the new Rio, which goes on sale this week.

Priced at $14,990 complete with driver airbag, air-conditioning, six-speaker CD player and central locking standard, the four and five-door Rios will offer strong competition to the three-door entry level offerings from Hyundai and Daewoo. It won't be sold with drive away pricing, Mr Hull promises.

"The premium for a pair of rear doors has been about $3000 or $4000 in past years, whereas the retail difference should only be about $1000. At the factory it's only about a few hundred dollars," he said.

Mr Hull hopes dealers will find about 1000 buyers a month, making the Rio the most popular car in the company's line-up from the word go.

"Festiva used to rack up 18,000 sales a year so we're positive," Mr Hull said.

The Rio is the successor to the Festiva but will not be sold with a Ford badge in Australia.

"We're spending at three times the industry average per unit (on advertising and marketing), that's the price of entry, but our volumes are still modest. Even so, it's painful," Mr Hull said.

The present popularity king in the Kia range is the Carnival, which almost ironically has given Kia a boost in past months since Ateco Automotive assumed the importation rights from Itochu, the Tokyo-based trading company which launched the brand in Australia in 1997.

"One of our biggest selling vehicles to date has been a $30,000 vehicle which is quite different to Daewoo and Hyundai," Mr Hull said.

"We may just have a better starting point. I'd rather be there and sell down to the Rio, rather than sell up to a $30,000 vehicle from a $14,990 Rio." Kia will also revisit the medium sized sedan market later this year with the revised (Sonata-based) Credos replacement.

Mr Hull is optimistic this vehicle will do well, and it is definitely in for a name change, though this has not been signed off yet. The new Credos will probably only come with a V6 engine.

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