Kia Motors America said its sales fell by about a quarter in May compared to the previous year, an improvement from a dismal April in which sales of all the Korean auto maker’s models were down 38.4 percent as the coronavirus pandemic kept buyers at home.
One bright spot for Georgia was that three of Kia’s five top-selling models — the Optima sedan, Sorento compact SUV and the new Telluride SUV — are made in the state.
Optima sales were down 29 percent in May, with Sorento falling 13 percent. Sales of Tellurides were down 59 percent in May from the previous year, while being up 31 percent for the first five months of 2020. Kia introduced the new Seltos crossover earlier this year.
“Despite these uncertain times, Kia continued to outperform the industry in April and consumer demand for key products like Telluride and Seltos remained extremely high,” said Bill Peffer, vice president of sales operations at California-based Kia Motors America in a news release.
Citing supply interruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kia’s factory shut down throughout the entire month of April, with an initial two-week closure eventually extended through the end of the month.
Partial operations resumed May 4 and have continued to date, other than a shutdown the week of May 25 due to another parts shortage. Work has been spread evenly among rotating shift teams comprising the plant’s 2,700 workers, according to a spokesman.
The Korean auto maker contributed $20,000 to the Technical College System of Georgia Foundation to help with the transition to remote learning and had begun paying volunteers from among its staff to return to the factory to assemble face shields delivered by the company’s “Telluriders” (other volunteers) to hospitals in Georgia and around the United States. It planned to make almost as many face shields as the 340,000 vehicles it churns out in a year in west Georgia.
Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia is one of many Korean investors contributing to Georgia’s COVID-19 response.