We’ve always dug Kia’s funky little Soul, but we were admittedly much more smitten with the Soul’ster concept — a two-door, open-air runabout that debuted at the 2009 Detroit auto show. We held some hope that Kia could find some way of sneaking the Soul’ster into production, but that notion seems somewhat unlikely.
Wards’ Auto World recently sat down with Orth Hedrick, Kia’s director of product planning, who indicated the automaker is reluctant to craft a spin-off of its successful Soul. Hedrick’s explanation largely revolves around the fact that the Soul is already a niche vehicle, and crafting something that focuses on an even smaller niche may not be the right move, particularly in a challenging economy.
But wait, you ask — wouldn’t lopping three doors off a Soul be a fairly simple process? That may seem easy enough, but readying the Soul’ster for production would be much more complicated. The topless Soul would require all-new stampings for the roof, cab, rear fenders, tailgate, and more than likely, the floorpan itself. Engineers would need to design and evaluate bracing to compensate for the lost rigidity incurred by chopping the top. On that note, Kia would also need to engineer and source production for the expansive sliding cloth top system.
Those changes add up, and so do their costs. As Hedrick notes in his interview, the Soul’ster would essentially be an all-new vehicle program. In order to build a business case for spending the money and engineering resources on a new program, the end product needs to have mass-market appeal. It can’t be something that carves a niche from a niche.
Instead of seeing a number of physical variants emerge from the Soul line, expect the occasional special edition model — like the Soul Denim, Ignition, Shadow Dragon, and Ghost models — designed to inject a little more pizzazz into the hatchback. A mid-cycle refresh is due in 2012, and will reportedly bless the Soul with new front and rear fascias, along with a revamped interior.
Will special edition models keep the Soul at the front of the hip-hatch pack, or are variants like the Soul’ster worth investing in? Put on your product planning hat, and send us your thoughts on what you’d like to see from Kia in the future by commenting below.
Source: Wards’ Auto World