You’re probably picking your toast up off the floor right now, so we apologize for not softening the shock of that headline. But it’s true, and it comes straight from Kia Motors America’s product boss.
The other day, we told you the Korean automaker is poised to announce the production of a bigger, butchier crossover aimed at tempting buyers in the largest utility class. While the looming Telluride soaked up the lion’s share of aÂ Wards AutoÂ interview withÂ Orth Hedrick, Kia’s North American vice president of product planning, a brief mention at the end of the article caught our eye.
According to Wards, Hendrick “hints the [second-generation K900] will be shown at the New York auto show in late March.”
Hey, pick up your toast again!
The thought of a second-gen K900 surprises this author, as the current generation can’t seem to stimulate a sale to save its life. And yet, wildly low volume (to be fair, it’s available in limited markets) hasn’t swayed Kia from plans to field an updated product in a dying segment. A segment in which the K900, introduced in 2014, captures a micron-width slice of market share.
This isn’t meant to bash Kia, it’s just that the decision is perplexing. We inhabit a world where Ford’s considering dropping the high-volume Fusion. Kia needn’t feel like it needs to offer a full-size luxury sedan anymore â€” the “occupy all segments to be seen as a serious automaker” mantra looks outdated these days. Kia’s proven it can build a luxury car. Still, the Genesis brand awaits anyone looking for a value-laden premium full-sizer hailing from South Korea.
And besides, the Kia Stinger is surely a more significant product â€” not just for sales, but for brand building. The Stinger has the ability to squash more preconceived notions about the brand than a rarely-seen luxury sedan ever could.
Some 35 Americans brought home a Kia K900 in December 2017. Last year’s U.S. tally of 455 vehicles was nearly half of 2016’s volume, which was just a third of 2015 volume. BMW sold more i8s last year. The seven K900s Canadians bought in 2017 â€” which was a low point in a model run that’s seen 92 K900s sold over four years â€” makes it rarer than an albino moose.
Remember, in 2017 Ford soldÂ 209,623 Fusions in what was seen as an awful year for the model.
At what point does having such a slow-selling vehicle in the lineup cast a pall over the brand, or at least leave a smudge? Of course, this assumes people are paying enough attention to even make a joke. There’s no shortage of action in the Kia stable, but the hubbub surrounds the brand’s utility lineup, the Stinger, and the new Forte compact and Rio subcompact. When and if the Telluride gets the green light, there’ll be buzz in that segment, too.
Visually unoffensive, the traditionally styled K900 offers plenty of content and an optional 5.0-liter V8 engine, though early reviewers didn’t appreciate the car’s numb steering and soft suspension. Certainly, LeBron James’ endorsement didn’t lead to anything approaching a sustained sales surge.
In Kia’s homeland, the K9, as it’s called, carries far more prestige. In certain Asian, Middle Eastern, and South American markets, the model bears theÂ Quoris name.
The K900, imported from Korea, doesn’t take up any precious U.S. assembly spaceÂ â€” it just occupies a bit of real estate on a boat whenever regional managers send word to head office to ship a few more in their direction. It’s not a pressing issue. We’re just curious as to why Kia Motors America wants a second generation of the model. Certainly, a freshened exterior and improved handling dynamics could stimulate a few more sales in the short term, but why bother? Is it pride? Stubbornness? Something else?
We posed these questions to Kia. Alas, it seems the automaker didn’t want to discuss the K900, as we did not receive a response as of press time.
Expect to see the 2019 Kia K900 debut later this year.
[Images: Kia Motors]