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Kia keen to defy downward diesel trend

Dark star: Don’t discount diesel just yet, says Kia Australia COO Damien Meredith.

Top Aussie operative predicts a diesel variant across the entire Kia range

23 Feb 2015

DESPITE growing signs to the contrary, Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) chief operating officer Damien Meredith believes that diesel-powered cars can still have a place in the Australian motoring landscape, even in smaller vehicles.

Speaking with GoAuto, Mr Meredith expressed his desire to see a diesel variant offered in Kia’s entire model line-up, including in the forthcoming Picanto light car.

Currently, Kia only offers its SUV duo of Sportage and Sorento with a diesel engine option, along with its pair of people-movers, the Rondo and the Carnival. Last year it dropped the Soul diesel variant, and none of its light, small or medium-category vehicles are offered with an oiler.

While Mr Meredith acknowledged that other brands are moving away from small diesel-powered cars, he believes that there are still tangible benefits to offering them.

“If you look at diesel sales in Australia – and I'm not talking about units, I'm talking about the fuel side – it continues to grow,” Mr Meredith said. “I really believe that over the years it will continue to grow. The mix of (diesel and petrol) sales in Australia has changed, we know that. But I think there's a place for probably one diesel engine in each of our line-up of vehicles going forward.

“From a production point of view, from a marketing point of view, and from an environmental point of view, I think there's opportunity there.”

Last year in Australia, sales of diesel-powered vehicles dropped in a number of segments, including private passenger (-17.8 per cent), non-private passenger (-16.6 per cent), and non-private SUV (-7.6 per cent) purchases, but they grew in private SUV sales (+7.1 per cent).

Kia recently showed off a mild hybrid system that utilises its 1.7-litre turbo-diesel combined with an electric supercharger and lead-acid battery array. However, the system has been engineered around left-hand-drive architecture, with no word about possible right-hand-drive applications.

“Right-hand-drive markets in a company from a left-hand-drive country don't have the array of options open to them than a company coming from Japan does,” explained Mr Meredith. “We just have to wait on until (Kia head office) R&D say 'yes, this is okay, we’ll do this'.”

Kia Australia, meanwhile, is continuing to work on its plans to bring the Picanto light car to Australia.

“We're hoping that we can get Picanto before the end of this year,” said Mr Meredith. “We're pushing hard, and we’ll find out more in the next three weeks when our product team goes to Korea.

“We figure it will be a great car for Kia in Australia, and we're very confident about it.”

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