If you’ve ever found yourself asking, “Whatever happened to that Kia concept from a few years ago?”, you aren’t alone. Kia builds great concepts for auto shows, but despite the buzz that they generate, they rarely go to production. While incredibly cool variations of the Soul like the Soul’ster, Track’ster, and Trail’ster are still on our wish list, it looks like one of Kia’s most desirable concepts is actually headed for production. According to Australia’s Drive, the Kia GT concept has been given the green light and will be officially announced soon.
First shown all the way back in 2011, the Kia GT concept was a sporty four-door with a coupe-like design that looked like it was ready to take Kia’s corporate design language in a much more attractive direction. With a turbocharged six-cylinder engine and rear-wheel-drive, it also promised to move Kia in a much more fun to drive direction. It had the makings of a car that would build on the success of the Optima in making people want to own and drive a Kia, and seeing it go into production would be great news.
What about the other exciting Kia concept, the GT4 Stinger? Sadly, while it hasn’t been officially canceled, it looks like the 300-horsepower sports car’s future is far from certain. Kia America’s head of product planning, Orth Hendrick, said, “the Stinger we have some more work to do as far as bringing that to market. The market for a coupe is not strong for the length of time needed to get a return on your investment.”
He then added, “[Coupes] don’t do well here. They do really, really good for 18 months and then they really fall off. You can get just as much emotional experience in a sedan, a more practical car, than a coupe.”
Hope for the GT4 Stinger isn’t completely dead, however, with Hendrick saying: “[I]t communicates something very, very clear to market with a coupe in your line-up. … It would communicate a younger, more emotional message to the market. I think buyers of those types of vehicles tend to be more engaged with their cars. We tend to prioritise that with our design, with our approach to marketing the cars, the fact that we race vehicles. … Our buyers tend to be more passionate.”
While it’s disappointing to hear that a production version of the GT4 Stinger is still a ways away, it’s certainly true that the market for a sports sedan is much bigger than the market for a sports coupe. In that regard, it makes sense to ease the company in a more sporting direction with the introduction of the Kia GT first. The slow-selling K900 was the first rear-wheel-drive sedan in Kia’s lineup, but the smaller size, more attractive look, lower price, and presumably better handling of the GT would give it a much better shot at attracting buyers. If the GT is successful, perhaps Kia will find room for a sports coupe in its lineup in a few more years.
The GT is also incredibly important for Kia as it tries to find its own brand identity in the United States. Despite sharing platforms for their cars, the Hyundai-Kia relationship is more like two separate companies that happen to be owned by the same corporate parent than two divisions of the same company. As such, there’s very little in the way of product distinction. If Kia could move in a sportier direction while Hyundai moves in a more luxurious direction, their cars would begin to feel like distinct models.
There’s no way to tell if Kia could ever legitimately become a poor man’s BMW, but it would sure be exciting to watch Kia try. The Optima was a great success back in 2011, and the GT has a lot of potential to build on that success. Selling a rear-wheel-drive, coupe-like sports sedan is a big risk for Kia, but with so few companies being willing to truly take risks these days, it’s refreshing to see Kia trying. Hopefully the Stinger makes it as well, but for now, the news that the GT is headed for production is great news.
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