Korean carmaker Kia aims to increase the production of its Optima model by 60,000 units this year by utilizing most of its expanded capacity in the United States. The company’s decision comes after it sold 84,590 Optimas in 2011 in the US, more than triple its sales in 2010. Last year marked the first full year of production for the redesigned Optima, with Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia adding 60,000 units of capacity.
The company’s plant in West Point, Ga., builds the Optima, Sorento, and the Hyundai Santa Fe. “We expect those [Kia] vehicles to account for about 50 percent of our volume here in the U.S. in 2012,” said Tom Loveless, Kia Motors America’s vice president of sales, during the Chicago Auto Show. The Optima and Sorento accounted for 44% of Kia’s sales in the US.
Loveless said the company is having a hard time in keeping up with the demand for the Optima, which might compel Kia to directly import the model from South Korea.
The Optima hybrid, meanwhile, will continue to be imported from South Korea, Loveless added. He had made the forecast that the Optima will be Kia’s best-selling vehicle in the US this year, surpassing the Sorento which has been holding the crown for the past two years.
He remarked that with the increase in Optima production, Kia should have three cars having more than 100,000 U.S. sales this year -- the Optima, Sorento and Soul. In 2011, Kia sold 130,235 Sorentos and 102,267 Souls in the US. The company posted a 36% increase in US sales in 2011 to 485,492 vehicles.