Kia’s Upscale Sedans Aren’t Having a Great Year
Kia has been on fire in recent years. Once considered an off-brand inferior to Japanese automakers, Kia has been upping its game in design, engineering, and technology to become a serious competitor across all segments. These improvements also apply to Kia sedans.
However, its two largest sedans have been struggling to sell in 2023. So far in 2023, sales of the Kia Stinger are down 24% compared to the same time period last year, and the Kia K5 is down 17%. That’s 993 fewer units of the Stinger and 4,053 fewer for the K5 compared to this point last year.
Why are the K5 and Stinger selling so slowly?
We could easily blame the decline in sales on sedans in general, but that excuse falls apart when you look at other sedans. Sales for the Toyota Camry are up 7%, the Honda Accord is up 5%, and the Hyundai Elantra is up a significant 39%.
Part of the reason Stinger sales are slow is because it’s being discontinued after the 2023 model year. News of a car’s discontinuation almost always slows down sales, regardless of the vehicle’s merits. Of course, there are exceptions to this, like the Dodge Charger enjoying hot sales during its “Last Call” phase.
The waning popularity of the Kia K5 is harder to explain. Part of it could be the name. The Kia Optima was around long enough to have a reputation, but buyers might need clarification on what the K5 is. Based on the name and the edgy design, it isn’t immediately evident to the casual observer that it’s the successor to the Optima.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to get it into the mind of the average driver that you can get a legitimately premium sedan from Kia. Remember the K900? That was a serious full-size luxury sedan wearing Kia badges that failed to sell in any significant numbers in the U.S. The second-generation model only lasted for two model years before being discontinued.
Drivers also have a hard time associating Kia sedans with exciting performance. This could explain why the Genesis G70 outsells the mechanically similar Kia Stinger. Even though the Genesis brand is still young, it is a luxury brand. People are willing to pay more for the G70 because it’s a proper luxury car from a luxury brand.
The rest of the Kia lineup is doing just fine
With the exception of the EV6, every other model in the Kia lineup is enjoying some nice sales growth so far in 2023 (per GoodCarBadCar). Even the smaller sedans are selling well.
The compact Kia Forte is up 25%, and sales of the subcompact Kia Rio are up 12%. We think the Forte is likely up because of its value proposition compared to more expensive Japanese rivals. The Kia Rio is probably enjoying some of the market share previously held by the recently discontinued Hyundai Accent.
Although numbers are down for these upscale sedans, we’re glad Kia is still building legitimate sport sedans like the K5 GT and Stinger GT2.