INCORPORATING QUALITY

Ecuador 2019 | TRANSPORT & INFRASTRUCTURE | INTERVIEW

Kia has a strong footing in Ecuador and plans to entirely focus on building a loyal client base once it crosses the threshold of 20% market share.

Ricardo Rosales
BIOGRAPHY
Ricardo Rosales has vast experience in the car manufacturing industry and has been instrumental in Kia's growth and building its young corporate identity. Before joining Kia as President Director, he worked for Nissan.

How would you position Kia in the market and what are the major trends?

The market is going to shrink slightly during 2019 and there are two reasons for this. First, 1H2018 saw an uptick in the market, maturing it to a certain extent. Second, people have less funds and the government has urged banks to adjust their consumption credits. For automotive loans, car-buyers need to deposit 1.5% of the purchase value. This mostly affects entry-level cars, while the market for mid- or high-end cars remains stable.

Are you broadening your portfolio for this entry-level segment?

We have indeed done that recently by introducing the newest Picanto model. At present, Kia Ecuador is the second largest operation of Kia in Latin America, and during the last four years, the company's Ecuador operations have maintained a high ranking. Our secret is that when the Korean government started to apply the quotas, we were forced to import only 3,000 cars; therefore, we decided to be creative and advertise not in terms of price but the brand itself. Moreover, we invested those years into building relationships with car dealers. Equally important, we decided to invest in facilities and people; we hired young people and gave them opportunities to intern in other countries while sending some to the company headquarters in Seoul to learn about new markets and market trends. Overall, Kia invested heavily in automation during that period. With these plans in place, we launched three new models in 1H2017 and two new models in 2H2017, growing by 120%. By end-2018, we expect to increase our market share to 18%. Our idea is to hit 20% and then work on a customer retention strategy and grow Kia's market share. For that, we strive to have the right portfolio, which will be further made possible after the launch and expansion of our luxury line.

Kia recently launched a line of electric vehicles, what are your ambitions and how do you view this market?

The trend of the global market is that by 2025, 10% of the total car sales will be electric cars. Therefore, we have decided to be leaders in that field in Ecuador. So far, we have achieved great success; Kia is renowned for its electric car offerings in Ecuador. The country's youth is fast moving toward sustainability, so it is important for us to keep up with these trends. This is not a profitable business for us, but we are preparing for the future. At present, we have 15 charging stations across Quito and Guayaquil.

Do you think the number of factories or manufacturing lines in Ecuador will increase in the near future?

I don't expect a substantial increase because Ecuador recently signed an FTA with Europe which, after four years, would allow companies to import cars sans taxes. At the same time, Ecuador has become party to the Pacific Alliance, allowing companies to import Korean cars without taxes. Therefore, the only products with a future to be assembled here are going to be from India and China. In our case, we are planning to launch two new models in 2019, but we will export them to Columbia as well.

What are your ambitions for the coming years?

We aim to capture 20% market share and focus on building a loyal client base; the only way to remain profitable in the long run is to retain customers through superior aftersales service and exceptional customer experience. Our strategy is not reduced to pricing; it revolves around incorporating higher quality accessories and equipment, further building on our competitive edge.