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Kia was once widely regarded as being about as bargain-basement as cars could be when the Korean manufacturer’s models first began washing up on American shores in the mid-’90s. But since then, Kia has made monumental strides in quality and refinement, and its models can now go toe-to-toe with just about any offering from more established or popular mainstream automakers. That is paying dividends for the brand and its sales.

Kia sales are on the upswing

Kia is on pace to blow its 2022 sales out of the figurative water. According to data compiled by GoodCarBadCar, Kia sales across the brand’s lineup were up 23.4% in May versus last year, and annual sales are up 22% to 266,073 across the first five months of 2023.

Among mainstream automotive brands that have released their May sales, Kia now holds a 4.5% market share, putting it ahead of Hyundai, Subaru, Mazda, and Volvo.

It is important to note all but among the 12 automotive brands releasing May figures, only Lincoln’s sales during the month were lower than last year, and it, along with Toyota, are the only brands that have sold fewer cars so far in 2023.

This underscores the general market for brands is apparently far better with more robust supply, and consumers haven’t been turned off completely by skyrocketing interest rates. Still, Kia’s recent numbers highlight the brand is continuing to cement itself into the upper echelon of automakers in terms of units on driveways.

Kia’s SUVs are leading the charge

Kia’s SUVs have been leading the charge so far this year. The most popular of these SUVs is the compact Sportage, of which nearly 58,000 units have been sold through May. That figure is over double (51.75%) the amount of Sportages sold this time last year.

The popularity of the model is not just due to its class, the Sportage is a sound all-around choice among compacts for its agreeable price, long list of standard features, attention-grabbing styling, spacious cabin and supple ride quality.

Behind the Sportage for sales is the highly lauded midsize, three-row Telluride. Perhaps no other model showcases Kia’s rise to prominence better than the SUV, which tops the list as the best midsize SUV from a bevy of automotive organizations and publications. Telluride sales continue to climb with 21% more units moved through May than this time last year.

Kia’s often-forgotten other three-row midsize SUV, the Sorento, is also proving popular with about 35,000 units sold so far this year, an uptick of 30%. And perhaps high interest rates and overall inflation are helping sell Kia’s smallest SUV, the subcompact Seltos. Sales of the $24,665 SUV were up a staggering 171% in May year-over-year while annual sales have increased 52%.

Kia’s success isn’t solely predicated on its SUVs, however. Its Carnival minivan sales have nearly doubled from this time a year ago, while the Forte sedan and Soul and Niro hatchbacks are experiencing double-digit sales percentage growth.

There are a few blemishes in the ranks, however, with annual sales of the EV6 all-electric crossover, K5 compact sedan and midsize Stinger sport sedan down by double digit percentage points so far in the year.


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