Kia Motors is South Korea's 2nd largest automobile manufacturer with headquarters in Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea. Its CEO is Chung Eui-sun. The American arm is Kia Motors America. On October 20, 2006, Kia Motors America formally hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for its first US assembly plant in West Point, Georgia, at an initial cost of over $1 billion. Since 2005, Kia has started to focus on the European market and is currently the UK's fastest growing car company and had various other successes in the European market.
According to Kia Motors, the name "Kia" derives from the Hanja ki meaning arise or come up out of or rising up and the a stands for Asia. So Kia is roughly translated as arise or come up out of Asia or Rising out of Asia.
South Korea's oldest car company, Kia was founded in 1944 as manufacturer of steel tubing and bicycles. In 1952, Kia changed its name from Kyungsung Precision Industry, and later built motorcycles, trucks and cars. Starting in 1986, in partnership with Ford, Kia produced several Mazda derived vehicles for both domestic sales in Korea and imports into other countries. These models include the Pride (based on the Mazda 121) and 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.
However, Kia's bankruptcy in 1997, part of the Asian financial crisis, resulted in the company being acquired in 1998 by South Korean rival Hyundai Motor Company, outbidding Ford Motor Company which had owned an interest in Kia Motors since 1986.
Kia Motors America is the United States subsidiary of the Kia Motors company, itself part of the Hyundai Motor Group.
Kia Motors Europe (KME)is the European sales and marketing division of Kia Motors Corporation (KMC). In 2007 KME moved from its previous location at Hauptstrasse 185, Eschborn, Frankfurt to a new purpose built facility adjacent to the Messe in Frankfurt city centre.
From 1995 to 1999 Kia produced left and right hand drive versions of the Sportage SUV at the Karmann factory in Germany. From 1999 until production of the model ceased in 2003, all Sportage production reverted to Korea.
Kia began importing cars to Europe in early 1991, initially selling just the Pride mini-car. It initially proved popular with buyers but sales fell towards the end of the decade and the end of production was finally announced in May 2000, with its successor - the Rio - not going on sale for another year.
The European range expanded in 1994 when Kia began importing the larger Mentor, a range of medium sized hatchbacks and saloon which were marketed as cheap and well-equipped alternatives to the likes of the Ford Escort and Vauxhall/Opel Astra. A facelift in 1999 saw the Mentor name retained for the saloon, but the hatchback was renamed Sephia. These models remained on sale until 2004, when the newer Cerato was launched and gave Kia one of its first serious competitors for mainstream brands.
The Sportage SUV range has been popular across Europe, but since 2002 Kia has gained more sales in this market thanks to the launch of the larger Cerato.
Kia did not enter Europe's large family car market until the launch of its Credos four-door saloon in 1999. This car was similar in size to the Ford Mondeo, but on its launch was actually cheaper to buy than the smaller Focus. It had a spacious interior, large boot, competitive asking price and high equipment levels, but it had little more appeal to sway buyers away from established European brands like Ford Motor Company, Vauxhall/Opel, Renault and Peugeot. Its successor, the Magentis, launched in 2001, was still nowhere near as popular as Kia might have hoped it would be.
Kia entered the MPV market in 1999 with its the Sedona. On its launch, it was the cheapest full-size people carrier on sale in the United Kingdom.
2004 saw the commencement of European imports for the Kia Picanto city car. It has proved very popular with budget buyers in most of Europe.
As of 2007, Kia has been importing cars to Europe for 16 years. On its arrival, just one model was being sold. The range has gradually expanded over that time so the marque has a competitor in just about every sector except for the luxury and sports market. Sales of its products have so far failed to match those of established European brands, but current sales records have been impressive for a marque who only arrived in Europe at the start of the previous decade.