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Thursday, 29 January 2015

Korean 6th Gear, Part III: Kia Motors

Kia Motors Gwangju Plant in Naebang-dong, Gwangju Seo-gu
Kia Motors Corporation (Hanja: 起亞自動車), headquartered in Seoul Seocho-gu, is South Korea's second-largest automobile manufacturer, following the Hyundai Motor Company, with sales of over 2.7 million vehicles in 2012 and almost 2.75 million vehicles in 2013. As of December 2013, the company is 33.88% owned by the Hyundai Motor Company. According to Kia Motors, the name "Kia" derives from the Sino-Korean words ki ("to come out") and a (which stands for Asia), it is roughly translated as "arise or come up out of Asia" or "rising out of Asia".

Kia was founded on June 9, 1944 as a manufacturer of steel tubing and bicycle parts by hand – and has operated as one of the country's Chaebols since then. In 1951 Kia began building complete bicycles. In 1952, Kia changed its name from Kyungsung Precision Industry, and later built motorcycles (starting in 1957), trucks (1962) and cars (1974). The company opened its first integrated automotive assembly plant in 1973, the Sohari Plant. Kia built the small Brisa range of cars until 1981, when production came to an end after the new military dictator Chun Doo-hwan enforced industry consolidation, meaning Kia had to give up passenger cars and focus entirely on light trucks.

Starting in 1986 (when only 26 cars were manufactured, followed by over 95,000 the next year), Kia rejoined the automobile industry in partnership with Ford. Kia produced several Mazda-derived vehicles for both domestic sales in South Korea and for export into other countries. These models included the Kia Pride, based on the Mazda 121, and the Avella, which were sold in North America and Australasia as the Ford Festiva and Ford Aspire.

In 1992, Kia Motors America was incorporated in the United States. The first Kia-branded vehicles in the United States were sold from four dealerships in Portland, Oregon in February 1994. Since then, Kia expanded methodically one region at a time. Dealers in 1994 sold the Sephia, and a few years later the United States line expanded with the addition of the Sportage. By 1995, there existed over one hundred Kia dealerships across thirty states, selling a record 24,740 automobiles.

However, during the Asian financial crisis, Kia declared bankruptcy in 1997; in 1998 Hyundai Motor Company acquired 51% of the company outbidding Ford Motor Company which had owned an interest in Kia Motors since 1986. After subsequent divestments, Hyundai Motor Company owns less than 50% of the company.

Since 2005, Kia has focused on the European market and has identified design as its "core future growth engine"—leading to the hiring of Peter Schreyer in 2006 as Chief Design Officer and his subsequent creation of a new corporate grille known as the 'Tiger Nose'.

In October 2006, Kia Motors America broke ground for Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia in West Point, Georgia, representing a $1 billion USD investment for the company. Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia opened in February 2010, after Kia recorded its 15th consecutive year of increased U.S. market share.

In August 2014, the company received international attention when Pope Francis of the Catholic Church rode in one of their compact cars, the Kia Soul, during a five-day visit to South Korea. The Kia Soul drew bigger attention than two other vehicles used by the Pope, their Kia Carnival and Hyundai's Santa Fe, because it appeared in the high-profile welcoming ceremony of his arrival at the Seoul Airport on 14 August.

Kia Motors Hwaseong Plant in Ihwa-ri, Ujeong-eup, Hwaseong City, Gyeonggi Province
Beginning in 2006 Kia identified design as its "core future growth engine" – leading to the 2006 hiring of Peter Schreyer as Chief Design Officer. Schreyer had previously worked at Audi (designing the Audi TT) and Volkswagen and had won the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany. Schreyer has since been central to a complete restyling of Kia's lineup, overseeing design activities at Kia's design centers in Frankfurt, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and the Namyang Design Center in Korea.

With the Kee concept vehicle, shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2007, Kia introduced a new corporate grille to create a recognizable 'face' for the brand. Known as the Tiger Nose, Schreyer indicated he wanted "a powerful visual signal, a seal, an identifier. The front of a car needs this recognition, this expression. A car needs a face and I think the new Kia face is strong and distinctive. Visibility is vital and that face should immediately allow you to identify a Kia even from a distance." commenting on the new signature grille in 2009: "From now on, we'll have it on all our cars".

Kia Motors Sohari Plant in Soha-dong, Gwangmyeong City, Gyeonggi Province

About Kia Motors Sohari Plant
The Sohari Plant was Kia Motors first integrated automobile manufacturing plant, established in 1973 on 498,908 square metres (5,370,200 sq ft) of land. Subsequently, the plant manufactured Kia's first internal combustion engine, followed by the manufacture of its first automobile, the Kia Brisa (1974–1982). In 1975, Kia exported its first vehicle, the Brisa pickup, to the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar.

The South Korean government forced Kia to halt car production in 1981, assessing the Korean auto market as too competitive. In 1986, the government allowed the company to resume manufacturing with its agreement to build the Ford Festiva for export.

The Sohari Plant manufactured the Kia Pride/Rio and its rebadged variants the Ford Festiva and Mazda 121, as well as the subsequent Kia Avella and its variant, the Ford Aspire. The factory currently manufactures the Kia Carnival/Sedona (and its variant the Hyundai Entourage, 2007–2009), Kia Rio and Kia K9 Quoris/K900, with an annual output of 340,000 vehicles.

The plant is located in Soha-dong, Gwangmyeong, South Korea, near the country's capital of Seoul in the Gyeonggi province — with ready access to labor, other resources and transportation facilities, as well as the Seoul metropolitan area.

Current Lineups (Korea unless stated):
  • Kia K9 Quoris (Full-size luxury car; 4-door sedan) - made in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi Province
  • Kia K7 Cadenza (Full-size Executive car; 4-door sedan) - made in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province
  • Kia K5 Optima (Mid-size; 4-door sedan) - made in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province
  • Kia K3 Cerato-Forte (compact; 4-door sedan) - made in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province
  • Kia K3 Cerato-Forte Koup (compact; 2-door coupe) - made in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province
  • Kia K3 Cerato Forte Euro (compact; 5-door hatchback) - made in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province
  • Kia cee'd (compact; 5-door hatchback) - made in Žilina, Slovakia
  • Kia cee'd_sw (compact; 5-door station wagon) - made in Žilina, Slovakia
  • Kia procee'd (compact; 3-door hatchback) - made in Žilina, Slovakia
  • Kia Venga (mini-MPV; 5-door hatchback) - made in Nošovice, Moravskoslezský Region, Czech Republic
  • Kia Picanto (City car; 5-door hatchback) - made in Seosan, Southern Chungcheong
  • Kia Ray (Electric-powered Mini MPV; 5-door hatchback) - made in Seosan, Southern Chungcheong
  • Kia Rio/Pride (Subcompact car; 3-door hatchback, 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback) - made in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi Province
  • Kia Carnival/Sedona (4-door minivan) - made in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi Province
  • Kia Soul (Compact; 5-door hatchback) - made in Gwangju Seo-gu
  • Kia Carens (Compact MPV; 4-door wagon) - made in Gwangju Seo-gu
  • Kia Mohave (Mid-size SUV; 4-door wagon) - made in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province
  • Kia Sorento (Mid-size Crossover SUV; 4-door wagon) - made in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province
  • Kia Sportage  (Compact Crossover SUV; 4-door wagon) - made in Gwangju Seo-gu