Following reports that the Hyundai Sonata may not be long in this world, there have been rumors that the fate of the Kia Stinger and K5 sedan may also be in jeopardy.
The reasoning is obvious. After years of crossovers seeing an increased share of the global market, automakers got rid of sedans so they could sell products with higher margins. A significant percentage of the population has also been sold on the theory that taller vehicles are automatically safer than their road-hugging counterparts. While it’s endlessly debatable between models, certain aspects of crossovers make perfect sense for the modern era. Storage capacity is generally better than you’d find on a similarly sized sedan, and the extended suspension travel can help the vehicle absorb the impact of pothole-laden streets that seem to be popping up everywhere.
Whether it was entirely the result of marketing, automakers that had previously phased out their sedan lineup (e.g. virtually all American brands), or organic change based on the changing needs of drivers, crossovers and SUVs now dominate the automotive market. But this comes at the expense of vehicles that some people (including your author) tend to prefer. We’re losing good vehicles that can sometimes be found with semi-rational price tags and it looks like we might be on our way to seeing a few more pull away towards sunset.
These stressors would however be in a few years. Reports of the Sonata’s demise suggest it will be refreshed in the coming years before being phased out altogether around 2027. The reason given is that Hyundai Motor Group (which includes Kia) is targeting annual sales of over 3 million of electric vehicles. worldwide by 2030 and must free up space in its range for electric vehicles. Indeed, the Asan factory in South Korea where the Sonata is produced has already stopped its construction to make way for the Ioniq 6 electric sedan.
Automotive News speculated that Kia’s sedans could suffer a similar fate. Even if he was hardly alone. Many outlets have suggested that the brand may already be picking gravestones for the K5 and Stinger, with no lack of support from market analysts.
“Under Executive Chairman Euisun Chung, there appears to be a drive to remove sentimentally iconic nameplates as the automaker moves forward into the future,” explained Ed Kim, president and chief analyst at AutoPacific.
As noted earlier, sedan sales are down. Although some of this has been attributed to the industry (both factory and dealer franchise) deprioritizing their existence, so push crosses that offer superior profitability.
JD Power previously reported that sales of SUVs (which include crossovers for some reason) and pickup trucks accounted for a record 80.2% of new-vehicle sales last December. Sales of electric vehicles have also increased by 80% (year-on-year), although they represent only 3% of the overall market. But that still doesn’t leave much room for the sedans that once dominated dealer lots. While the body style still enjoys millions of sales worldwide each year, most individual models continued to lose ground through 2022.
Of Automotive News:
Annual sales of the Sonata in the United States topped 200,000 in 2015 (213,303) and volume has steadily dropped below 100,000 in recent years.
“Its popularity has plummeted in its core markets of North America and South Korea at the hands of crossover SUVs,” Kim said. “It has increasingly become a fleet car in South Korea, popular with taxi operators, but with Hyundai Motor Group set to launch the Kia Niro Plus all-electric taxi, the Sonata’s relevance is even greater. threatened.”
Kia’s midsize sedan, the K5, formerly Optima, shares the same platform as the Sonata and will likely be phased out as well.
“I will be shocked if K5 does not suffer the same fate as Sonata”, [Jesse Toprak, chief economist for Autonomy] mentioned. “It’s very likely that you’re going to see the same slow production decline trajectory over the next three to five years for the K5 until it’s completely replaced by an EV.”
The rear-drive, performance-oriented Stinger is also said to be in trouble. Originally designed to be a flagship vehicle for the Kia brand with the aim of generating excitement among car enthusiasts, the model has actually managed to maintain a relatively healthy sales record. Despite US deliveries dropping to 12,556 units in 2020, the Singer rebounded with 13,517 sales in 2021. Unfortunately, it occupies the same midsize sedan segment that most automakers seem to refuse to prioritize. electric vehicles and/or crossovers.
“[The Stinger] demonstrated that Kia could make a true rear-wheel-drive performance car, and while it wasn’t a big seller, it helped elevate the Kia brand significantly,” Kim said. “Even if it ends up being a one-generation vehicle, it will still have done the intended job.”
Neither Hyundai nor Kia seem to have been willing to confirm or deny the rumors that any of the above vehicles are being put on pasture in initial reports. However, the latter brand’s PR team told us that the Stinger and K5 aren’t going anywhere.
This could be due to the likelihood that any shutdown in the United States will be a few years away. But there is also growing concern in the industry that large-scale electric vehicle production will not be viable for some time to come. Raw material prices are skyrocketing right now, increasing manufacturing costs across the board. This includes the already expensive batteries that are installed in electric vehicles, with analysts suggesting prices could soar more than 22% by 2026.
Combine that with earlier claims that global production rates (and prices) may not return to those seen before the COVID lockdowns and you can kind of see where all of this could go. While it’s all about staying profitable in times of crisis, the future for the automotive industry looks rather perilous in general. Emissions regulations are getting tougher, manufacturing costs are way and everyone but the wealthiest customers has less money to spend. It’s going to be incredibly difficult to totally transform the market into an EV-dominated landscape and it’s probably only a matter of time before people start clamoring for reliable vehicles at reasonable prices.
If automakers can make it work with electric vehicles, then that was a bunch of fiddling for nothing. But there is growing evidence that complicates this particular guess. Meanwhile, any brand that decides to go against the grain and continue offering traditional sedans could soon have the entire segment to itself. Although that’s a gamble that assumes crossovers won’t continue to grow in popularity and electric vehicles are still a decade or two away from seeing mainstream acceptance. Kia basically told us there was nothing to worry about for the K5 and the Stinger, so maybe it will be one of those brands.*
Our editor was at an industry event and asked a Kia spokesperson about this report and was told that the Stinger and K5 aren’t going anywhere.
Sometimes the decisions the industry should make seem painfully obvious, you wonder how the management of the company hasn’t already been fired. Other times, I’m just very happy that those aren’t my choices. This belongs to the latter category.
[Images: Hyundai Motor Group]
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