MIAMI--Kia plans to replace its slow-selling Amanti sedan this year--close on the heels of the similarly sized, redesigned Optima sedan now being rolled out. But the exact timing of the launch is undecided.
The Amanti replacement, tentatively called the Cadenza, had been expected in April. Kia officials now say only that that car will be launched in the first half of 2011.
Bringing out the two sedans in rapid succession could create a problem, although U.S. executives say the vehicles are aimed at different customers.
The base Optima LX and midgrade Optima EX sedans have begun arriving at dealerships, and the Optima Hybrid will debut in the first quarter as the first hybrid in Kia's lineup.
The Cadenza, already on sale in South Korea as the K-7, is longer and wider than the Amanti and is expected to be powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. The Amanti name will disappear.
Potentially, the Optima and Cadenza "could have some overlap," Orth Hedrick, director of product planning for Kia Motors America, said here at the Optima Turbo launch. "But in our mind, they're aimed at two different buyers."
Hedrick said the Optima is targeted at mainstream buyers of midsize sedans, while the Cadenza will go after a different group. He declined to specify the company's plans for the Cadenza, but its look and dimensions would place it in a category similar to the Toyota Avalon and Buick LaCrosse.
At 196 inches, the Cadenza is less than 5 inches longer than the Optima. It sits on a 112-inch wheelbase, compared with the Optima's 110 inches.
Meanwhile, Kia is also scheduled to launch a redesigned Rio subcompact next fall and give its Soul small crossover a slight freshening next summer.
"This is absolutely the fastest product cadence that I've personally been involved with, and it just keeps coming," said Hedrick, formerly a product planner at Nissan North America and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.
Kia, which has launched six new or redesigned products since early 2009, has increased its market share for three straight years. It also recently spent about $1 billion on a plant in West Point, Ga., where it is hiring 1,000 employees.
So company executives say they were perplexed when the financial blog Wall Street 24/7 recently named Kia as one of 12 brands that will disappear in 2011, along with the likes of Blockbuster, Merrill Lynch, and Moody's.
The blog argued that Kia sells "low-rent" vehicles. Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing for Kia Motors America, called the notion "ridiculous."
Said Sprague: "Most logical people look at these kinds of lists and ignore them."