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Kia Unsure of Soul Variants

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Kia Unsure of Soul Variants

By Christie Schweinsberg

WardsAuto.com, Jul 27, 2010 8:50 AM

SAN FRANCISCO – Kia Motors America is elated with the success of its quirky Soul cross/utility vehicle, but unsure if it wants to stretch its luck with additional variants.

Sales of the Soul through June were up a whopping 156.3% from year-ago to 28,637, far outpacing competitors such as the Scion xB (9,852) and Nissan Cube (15,530).

Nevertheless, Kia officials aren’t certain derivatives of the boxy 4-door would make sense, fearing such models largely would appeal to those already interested in the current model.

“(The Soul) tends to be a niche vehicle,” Orth Hedrick, director-product planning, tells Ward’s at a Sportage media event here. “There is very high appeal to a very narrow group of buyers.”

Kia hinted at a future derivative with the convertible Soul’ster concept shown at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

But in order for Kia to green-light a production Soul’ster, Hedrick says “You have to have broader appeal” to justify the development time and money it would take to bring the model to market.

Because of its drop-top nature, Hedrick notes a production Soul’ster would be an “almost all-new vehicle,” due to structural and weight differences from the current Soul.

Soul’ster would be pricey investment with narrow appeal.

“The business case is really what we have to keep studying all the time,” Hedrick says, noting developing and selling Soul variants would be a challenge, “especially in this environment.”

When Kia launched the Soul in spring 2009, it had high hopes the vehicle would expand the reach of the Kia brand to more stylish, affluent markets. And, so far, that is happening, says Tom Loveless, vice president-sales.

Loveless says the 88% increase in Kia’s northeastern U.S. market share during the last 18 months is attributable largely to the Soul. The region includes such markets as New York City and Boston.

“We’re very fortunate the product is relevant in all parts of the country, but clearly the Northeast is a success for us,” he says.

While the Soul has been well-received, Kia already is thinking ahead to improvements. As part of its mid-cycle change expected in ’12, Hedrick says the Soul will get more up-level content, as well as new front and rear styling.

He also says Kia will remedy issues cited by owners of early production models, without going into details



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Report: Economy kills Kia Soul'ster

by Steven J. Ewing (RSS feed) on Jul 27th 2010 at 6:27PM

Kia Soul'ster concept – Click above for high-res image gallery

If you've been crossing your fingers for a production version of the Kia Soul'ster concept from the 2009 Detroit Auto Show, prepare to be disappointed. According to a report from Ward's Auto, Kia says that expanding the Soul lineup beyond the current five-door hatch would prove to be more difficult than you might think. Earlier reports stated that Kia was keen to the idea of building an open-top Soul, but changing economic times seem to have crushed those plans.

The Soul has done extremely well for itself since going on sale in early 2009, but since this is a niche vehicle that would only appeal to a very narrow segment of the market, the business case for building new variants doesn't make sense at this time. Kia's director of product planning, Orth Hendrick, tells Ward's that the Soul'ster, specifically, would have to be developed as an all-new model, due to its vast structural differences from the standard Soul.

Come 2012, the Soul will undergo its mid-cycle refresh, and we're expected to see more upscale content, as well as slight changes to both the front and rear fascias. In the meantime, those of you who are super hot for a Soul'ster will just have to scan the local used car lot for a soft-top Isuzu Amigo, instead.



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