THIS new Kia Stinger GT is a game-changer for the brand.
That's the perspective of Kia Motors Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith, and the crowds around today's launch of the Stinger GT fastback are testament to the watershed moment for the brand.
"It puts the brand in another sphere. It shows what Kia can do with product," Mr Meredith said.
"A car like this is going to bring a lot of attention to the brand."
One will be on show at this month's Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, with another to be displayed at the company's dealer conference on January 29 before the official launch by September. One vehicle will then be handed over to the Kia Australia tuning division, featuring suspension guru Graeme Gambold, for further enhancement of the vehicles which will eventually arrive Down Under.
The plan is for the Stinger to be priced between $40,000-$50,000 - but Kia is still sharpening pencils.
Kia's greatest problem could be volume. Only limited numbers are expected to arrive in Australia by September, and Mr Meredith forecasts "what we get is what we'll sell".
Given the car's large size and performance attributes, it shapes as an option for buyers who formerly looked at the Australian-made Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore - primarily the SS Commodore. The Falcon has been banished, while Holden will bring in a fully imported front-wheel drive version of the Commodore when production finishes at Elizabeth later this year.
"They (Commodore and Falcon) are disappearing - the market isn't," Mr Meredith said.
"We have to be a logical fit to replace them. That is up to us on how we position Stinger, how we price Stinger, and to make sure we do everything that gives the car the opportunity to replace what has been a historic performance area."
So does that mean getting involved in Supercars racing. No...or not yet. "That decision hasn't been made. Everything is under study for this car because it's so damn important for us," Mr Meredith said.
"I know there is a view people who drive Commodore V8s and high performance Falcons are bogans, I'm not so sure about that. I have quite a few mates who are solicitors and financial planners who drive around in their V8 Commodores."
- Kia was Australia's 10th most popular brand last year
- It's the fastest growing mainstream brand, with an improvement of 26.5% ahead of Ford 15.3% and Subaru
- The large car segment accounted for 3% of the total market in 2016
- Holden's Commodore remains the most popular large car with 25,860 sold last year
- At its peak in 1998 the Commodore achieved 94,642 sales