Kia Motors America Hopes New COO Repeats That European Magic


2018 Kia Stinger - Image: Kia

Kia Motors, the brand that entered the U.S. with the Sephia and improved drastically from there, has a new chief operating officer — one it hopes can guide the automaker’s domestic division to greater sales heights.

It’s a reasonable expectation, as Michael Cole helped grow Kia Motors Europe’s sales 40 percent during his time as COO. Cole took on that role back in 2012. With a new executive to guide its sales, marketing, and product planning, Kia hopes last year’s U.S. sales slide is a one-time blip.

Prior to his time at Kia Motors Europe, Cole managed the brand’s British division.

“Kia’s sales, market share and brand awareness increased dramatically across Europe under Michael Cole’s leadership and his wealth of knowledge and experience will serve our U.S. operations well as we continue to sharpen the focus on retail sales,” said Kia Motors America president and CEO Sean Yoon, who assumed the top spot on March 1st.

“We have an aggressive slate of new and redesigned product launches scheduled for the next 18 months, and I look forward to working with Michael to increase demand for Kia’s award-winning vehicles in the United States.”

Following the recession, the Kia brand enjoyed eight straight years of sales growth in the United States. As the industry peaked last year, so too did Kia. 2017’s sales tally was 8.9 percent lower than 2016’s. The brand’s U.S. volume fell 5.2 percent in April, with year-to-date sales slightly in the red.

It’s not from lack of trying. In the past year, new and redesigned products have become the norm at Kia. The midsize, rear-drive Stinger brought newfound attention to a brand long seen as lacking excitement, while the Niro lineup of green pseudo-crossovers aims to put families in hybrids at a lower price point than the competition. There’s also a competent new Rio. Oh, and a redesigned Forte. And a second-generation K900.

Cole, who replaced Michael Sprague as COO, claims his mission is to “deliver the sales growth and brand reputation enhancement” Kia’s products deserve.

[Image: Kia Motors]