With India as Kia's sole production base for the upcoming compact SUV, both domestic and export demand are likely to be strong.
Kia Motors, which has in a short span of time got a strong foothold in the Indian market, first with the Seltos SUV and more recently with the Carnival MPV, is now gearing up to launch its third product – the Sonet compact SUV – later this year. Revealed as a concept at the Auto Expo 2020 in New Delhi, the company is expected to have the world premiere of the production-ready model in India sometime around August 2020.
Kia Motors is pinning strong hopes on the success of the Sonet in India. As per the company's Q1 FY2020 results presentation released today and reviewed by Autocar Professional, production of the Kia Sonet is slated to commence in the third quarter of CY2020, followed by the market launch either in the third quarter or fourth quarter (around Diwali festive season which is mid-November). Importantly, Kia has chalked out a sales target of 70,000 units a year for the upcoming compact SUV in year one.
Interestingly, India will be the sole production base in the world for the Sonet and that there's huge export potential for the snazzy compact SUV. Speaking to Autocar India earlier this year, Han-Woo Park, then president and CEO of Kia Motors, said: "When our global partners saw the Sonet, they got a shock. This is a model everyone wants to have. The Sonet will be the symbolic model for our exports from India.”
Kia Motors India is already playing a strong role in the company's global scheme of things. In Q1 2020, the Indian operations have contributed 5.5% to total revenues. Kia Motors recorded quarterly sales revenue of KRW 14.57 trillion, 17.1 percent higher than the KRW 12.44 trillion reported for the same period in 2019. Favorable exchange rates, improved product mix as well as strong performance of key models such as Telluride and Seltos SUVs contributed to higher revenue.
Compact SUV with a big mission
As the Sonet measures less than 4 metres long, it complies with India’s ‘small car’ regulations, making it Kia’s smallest SUV yet. Although the model will share its platform and basic mechanicals with the Hyundai Venue, the Korean carmaker has gone to great lengths in order to differentiate the Sonet compact SUV from its cousin (Venue), apart from the distinctive, and visibly more muscular design.
The Sonet will have three engine options – a 1.2 petrol, a 1.0 turbo-petrol and a 1.5 diesel – which are the same units seen in the Hyundai Venue. Gearbox choices are also expected to be the same as the Venue, with the 1.2-petrol getting a 5-speed manual, the 1.0-litre turbo-petrol and 1.5-diesel getting a 6-speed manual and the former will also likely get a 7-speed DCT automatic gearbox. The Kia Sonet is also expected to go one-up on the Venue with a diesel-automatic powertrain option. Additionally, the Sonet will also receive more equipment such as the Kia Seltos’ 10.25-inch touch-screen infotainment system, and a large sunroof is also a possibility.
As per Autocar India, Kia is expected to position the Sonet on the higher side of the compact SUV segment, with prices expected to be in the Rs 700,000-12 lakh (ex-showroom) bracket. Its rivals will include the Tata Nexon, Maruti Vitara Brezza, the Hyundai Venue, Mahindra XUV300 and Ford EcoSport.
UPDATE May 19: Kia Sonet launch on track for now despite lockdown delays
The nationwide lockdown since March 24, 2020 had already thrown launch schedules of new models in the Indian market off track. The latest ‘Lockdown 4.0’ extension, till May 31, could now have ramifications for models scheduled for launch months down the road. The Kia Sonet compact SUV is one such model and could come later than originally planned.
Speaking to Autocar India last week, Manohar Bhat, Head – Sales and Marketing, Kia Motors India, stated that the Korean carmaker is working with its partners towards a “best case scenario” to launch the Kia Sonet as planned in August-September. “We believe that by that time, customers will be in more of a positive state of mind. The festival season would also have started.” However, Bhat did add, “We are cautiously optimistic. We believe that we can still make it. But again, if the lockdown continues in a very critical place for longer than what we expect, maybe May 18 or end of the month, then we’ll be in trouble.” With the lockdown now standing extended, Kia could be forced to push back the Sonet’s launch.
Bhat also underlined the importance of a new launch amidst the unprecedented sales slump brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We believe that the best way to get out of this situation is a new vehicle and a new attraction for the customer to come to the showroom; to get out of this, it is the best way.” He added, “A new launch, especially something like the Sonet has two very good impacts – one, the customer starts walking in. Second, the dealers’ sales staff morale is boosted when you have a new product. So, I think sticking to that (launch plan) will be very positive for us – not only in terms of numbers but also in terms of morale; and also the visibility for our customers for Kia. The Sonet will have a rub off maybe on the Carnival or Seltos also. So overall it would be a good thing to launch it ASAP.”
(Inputs from Autocar India)
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