Kia is urgently making contingency plans to advance shipments of cars to Britain from South Korea after 1,300 UK-bound were lost last Sunday in a collision off Singapore between a car-carrying freighter and a super tanker.

With UK sales up 61% up until the end of April, and the brand heading towards 33,000 car sales this year, Kia claimed the accident is unlikely to make a major impact on its forecast performance.

Kia Motor UK’s spokesman, Paul Carter, admitted that losing the selection of Rios, Sorentos, Carens, Sedonas and 400 of the recently launched Picanto would mean having to bring forward supplies for the September registration peak.

He said: “With our cars very much in demand it is obviously not helpful and we will do all we can to minimise any waiting lists. But customers should know that they will not find empty showrooms because of the collision.

“We are working to bring forward schedules for ships due to dock at Sheerness in Kent over the next few months. This shipment was not due to arrive until late June so they would not be on sale until August and September. It is a case of protecting the orders we have and providing sufficient stock for the September rush.”

Around 4,000 Kias, which are now at the bottom of the South China Sea, were bound for Europe on board the M.V. Hyundai 105, built and operated by Kia’s parent company Hyundai.

Kia had already built up launch stocks for the new five-door Picanto small car, which debuted at the Sunday Times Motor Show Live. The company hopes to sell 6,000 Picantos this year, and 10,000 in 2005.

Carter added: “The loss involved five different models so it is better relatively than a concentration on one or two high-demand vehicles. The fact that they were not that far out from Korea means the majority was not yet allocated to dealers and in the supply pipeline.”