After months of speculation, and years of feasibility studies prior to that, Korea’s Kia Motors has finally announced a much-anticipated entry into the growing Indian car market. Kia has been very successful worldwide – especially in the past few years and now it's heading our way.
Here are some facts about the company that you may not have known.
Kia is a part of the Hyundai Motor Group that also has the Hyundai and Genesis brands of passenger cars in its portfolio. Together they are now the world’s 4th largest car manufacturer behind Volkswagen, Toyota and General Motors.
- Kia is South Korea’s oldest carmaker and was founded in 1944 as Kyungsung Precision Industry – a maker of steel tubing and bicycle parts. It also made Korea’s first indigenous bicycle – the Samchully in 1951. It began building Honda motorcycles under license in 1957 and Mazda trucks – also under license in 1962. In 1974 the partnership with Mazda extended to cars too. In the late1970s and early 80s Kia also made Fiats and Peugeots under license. Its own- brand cars only took off closer to 1990 when it made cars in partnership with Ford (and therefore Mazda, which Ford used to control).
- The brand entered the highly competitive US market in 1992, when Kia Motors America was set up. The Sephia and Sportage were some of the models that helped establish the brand in the early days.
The Sportage helped establish the brand in its early days
- Ford attempted to increase its small stake in Kia in 1997 when Kia declared bankruptcy under the cloud of Asia’s financial crisis. But Ford was outbid by the other big Korean carmaker! Kia was bought over by Hyundai in 1998, when it took control of 51% stake in the company. Today Hyundai Motor Co owns 33.88% stake, but Kia is a subsidiary of their common parent company – Hyundai Motor Group.
- The big turnaround came for Kia when it increased focus on Europe, and ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer was hired as the Kia design boss. This led to Kia’s ‘Tiger-Nose’ design philosophy that resulted in a massive increase in worldwide sales – just as Hyundai’s Fluidic-Sculpture did for that brand. It also elevated Schreyer to becoming a Hyundai Group President and overall design chief.
We expect the company to launch the Kia Picanto in India
- Kia sold over 3 million cars worldwide last year, and is one of the fastest growing brands in many global markets. While it is Hyundai’s sister brand, front-end operations of both companies remains separate, and they compete head-on with like-segment products.
Kia Soul is one of the most popular cars from the South Korean carmaker
- The entire Kia product portfolio shares platforms and components with Hyundai products. But there is no cross-badging, or sharing of any parts that are visible, on any car. Its most popular products are the Soul, Optima and Sorento. It will likely bring us the Rio, Picanto, Sportage and also some new compact models that will be India-specific.