Kia Motor Corporation, otherwise known as Kia automobile or just KIA is a South Korean automaker. Their headquarters is located in Seoul and they are the country’s second-largest manufacturer, after the Hyundai Motor Corporation. In 2015, they sold 3.3 million vehicles worldwide. By the end of 2015, they were partially owned by the Hyundai Company. In exchange, Kia is a minority owner of over 20 subsidiaries from Hyundai.
They currently manufacturer many sedans, a minivan, SUVs, and hybrid vehicles. The Kia Forte has been the company’s number one selling vehicle.
A Brief Kia History
The Origin Of The Kia Company
Kia began in 1944, named the Kyungsung Precision Industry. They started by manufacturing steel tubing plus bicycle parts. They created the first bicycle, known as the Sumchully in Korea in 1951. Then, a year later, they changed the company name to Kia Industries.
They started off by building Honda-licensed small motorcycles. That began in 1957. They also worked on Mazda-licensed trucks in 1962 plus their cars in 1974. Kia Industries opened their first automotive plant in 1973. The Sohari Plant was used to build small Brisa cars through 1981.
Production eventually came to an end when Chun Doo-hwan, the military dictator, enforced the industry’s consolidation. During this time, Kia was forced to give up production of passenger cars to focus only on light truck manufacturing.
In 1985, Kia produced 95,000 vehicles, but once the shutdown began in 1986, that number dropped to just 26 cars. To join back into the automotive industry, Kia joined with Ford. That’s when they worked to produce multiple Mazda vehicles for sales in South Korea and to export. The vehicles produced included the Mazda 121, the Avella, and the Kia Pride.
Moving to the United States
Kia Motors America began in 1992. The very first vehicles were sold through the first four dealerships, located in Portland, Oregon. The company carefully expanded their reach, one area at a time. The dealers sold the Sephia to begin with. Within a few years, they grew the segment with the Sportage. By 1995, they had more than a hundred dealerships located in 30 states. They sold 24,740 vehicles at that time.
By 1997, the Asian financial crisis caused Kia to declare bankruptcy. Just a year later, Hyundai and Kia reached an agreement to diversify by creating a partnership between the two companies. In the agreement, Hyundai took 51% of Kia. To create this deal, Hyundai outbid the Ford Motor Company. They had a previous interest in the company since 1986.
In exchange for the deal, Kia owns about 22 subsidiaries from Hyundai. They’ve also remained primarily focused on the European market since 2005.
Towards the end of 2006, Kia Motors America began creating their manufacturing plant in West Point, Georgia. This was a $1 billion investment for them. The facility opened early in 2010 after Kia’s 15th consecutive year of increase in America.
In 2014, Kia received attention from the world when Pope Francis rode in a Kia Soul, one of their compact vehicles. This occurred during a five-day visit through South Korea. This created more attention than the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Carnival he rode in previously. That’s because he used it during his welcoming ceremony to the Seoul Airport.
Alternative Propulsion Methods
Hybrid and electric history for the company began in 2013. That’s when they launched the Soul EV. It became the first in the industry to take the Underwriters Laboratory environmental validation.
By 2014, Kia Motors expanded the availability of the Soul EV to four states in the United States. It’s also when they launched the K5 Hybrid.
Just a few years later, in 2017, the Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle arrived in Chicago for debut during the Auto Show. The company unveiled its plug-in hybrid design.
By 2018, Kia Motors revealed their all-electric concept car. They also planned to launch their new diesel 48V mild-hybrid powertrain.
Kia Safety and Crash Ratings
Kia successfully places in the IIHS Top Safety Picks list for 2018. The 2018 Kia Forte was a Top Safety Pick+ winner in the small car market when equipped with optional front crash prevention and specific headlights. Two more of their vehicles placed in the small car segment: both the Kia Niro hybrid and the Kia Soul.
In the midsize car segment, the Kia Optima earned the honor of being a top pick. The Kia Cadenza was the winner in large cars. As far as small SUVs, the Kia Sportage was listed. Midsize SUVs included the Kia Sorento while the Kia Sedona took a place in the minivan category.
Kia Safety Equipment
Kia offers numerous ways to protect drivers and passengers. Their vehicle’s body structure is made from ultra-high tensile steel. There is also a full set of airbags on board. These include the driver and passenger seat airbag. Additional airbags are located at the driver’s knee, curtain plus the front and rear sides.
The seat belt pre-tensioner holds passengers in their seat during a collision. This helps them to remain safe. There’s also a bumper system that causes pedestrians to fall onto the car instead of under when hit.
The best safety technology works to avoid impact. The ASCC radar sensor combined with the LDWS camera work together to apply the brake before a collision. There’s also a TPMS which monitors air pressure inside the tires to alert if there are any issues with under-inflated tires.
The Emergency Stop Signal (ESS) uses a fast blinking signal to alert other drivers that you are abruptly stopping. With the Lane Departure Warning System, the vehicle remains safely in its lane during reckless or drowsy driving situations.
Kia Safety Recalls
According to Wards Auto, Kia has the third lowest rate of recalls. They came behind Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. Interestingly enough, they did rank high on the list of recalled cars with severe consequences. What’s good to know is that over 65% of their recalls were initiated by them and not the NHTSA. That placed them at the top of the list for proactive manufacturers.
In 2017, Kia and Hyundai recalled 1.4 million vehicles because engines could fail, increasing the risk of a crash. This includes all 2011 through 2014 Kia Optimas, 2011 through 2013 Kia Sportage SUVs, plus the 2012 through 2014 Kia Sorento SUVs.
Then, in 2018, Kia Motors Corp recalled more than 507,000 vehicles in the United States because an electronic glitch which might have prevented airbags from deploying in the event of a crash. There were six serious crashes where the airbags never deployed.
Consumer Satisfaction Reports & Dependability Ratings
According to Consumer Reports, Kia ranked fairly high in relation to both Predicted Reliability and Owner Satisfaction.
On the J.D. Power Dependability Study, the Kia Rio was the top pick in the small car ratings. The brand also received a score of 5/5 for Overall Dependability, 4/5 for Powertrain Dependability, 3/5 for Body and Interior Dependability, plus 4/5 for Feature and Accessory Dependability.
Consumer Reports also listed the company on the lower scale of the cost to own. After three years, the average price of repairs was just $110 and only raised to $440 after ten years.
The company is no stranger to winning awards. Here are some of the most prestigious from the past few years.
- “Highest Ranked Mass Market Brand in Initial Quality, Four Years In a Row” by J.D. Power.
- A ‘Best Global Brand.’ Six years in a row from Interbrand’s Best Global Brands.
- A Most Awarded Brand for 2017 by Kelley Blue Book
- Sorrento earns “Highest Ranked Midsize SUV in Initial Quality” 2 years in a row from J.D. Power.
- 2018 Niro wins ALG’s Residual Value Award for Alt-Fuel Vehicles.
- 2018 Cadenza awards Best Large Car for Families by U.S. News.
Kia has had its share of controversies over the years. In 2012, they were forced to admit wrongdoing by inflating the United States EPA mileage claims. In response, they needed to reduce all their fuel economy numbers by 3% across the board plus offer compensation to previous buyers.
Since 2014, the company has also been in the midst of controversies surrounding the construction of the Nuevo León plant in Mexico. They purchased land with unfairly advantageous conditions, like large tax incentives. This was against Mexican law, but had previously been approved by the head of Nuevo Leon state. He was later taken into custody.
Kia Community Outreach
As the company has grown in the United States, so has their passion for helping others in the community. That’s why they are always looking for new and innovative ways to help others. Here are a few of the causes that Kia supports.
Education and Youth
Kia partners with communities to empower education and the youth. Most of the charity work is done through DonorsChoose.org which focuses on giving back to the public school system. This program allows teachers to request specific items and then donors get to participate in helping. Because of this, the organization has raised almost $200 million for public schools in America. In addition, Kia has offered to match more donations, up to $5 million.
Safety and Health
Kia wants drivers to be safe on the road, which goes beyond creating safety equipment for cars, but more about creating safe drivers. That’s why they work with B.R.A.K.E.S., which stands for Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe. This teen driving school provides free, hands-on driving training that equips teens to be better citizens.
Kia believes that putting unique individuals together brings out the best in everyone. That’s how their company is built and it’s a value they want to instill in the community. They sell vehicles in lots of countries and feel they must foster inclusive environments, no matter who they deal with.
Sustainability is essential to Kia. That’s why the work with The Ecology Center located in Orange County, California. Through this organization, they provide community, hands-on opportunities to empower new environment perspectives.
They also work with the Pacific Marine Mammal Center located in Laguna Beach, California. This non-profit saves the lives of mammals stranded on the coastline. They also educate the public and conduct research.
On top of their partnerships, the company believes in creating sustainable efforts. They practice green manufacturing wherever possible and deliver high fuel-efficient vehicles in the Kia lineup. They’ve even been listed on the Interbrand’s 50 Best Global Green Brands for several years in a row.
Snapshot of the Company
Kia is based out of South Korea and was formed in 1944. They are now 34% owned by Hyundai. Their headquarters are in Seoul, South Korea and they produce automobiles worldwide. They have more than 53,000 employees worldwide. Hyoung-Keun Lee is the current Vice Chairman and CEO while Han Woo-Park is the current President and Co-CEO.
They have design facilities located throughout the world. The Namyang Design Center is located in Hwaseong, South Korea and is their primary location. It’s shared with Hyundai and sits on more than 3.3 square meters of land.
The Kia Design Center America is located in Irvine, California. It sits on 22 acres of land and features a 2D presentation room, 45 workstations plus nine offices. This location cost $130 million in 2008. The building also includes a 6,000 square-foot entry canopy plus a 36,000 square-foot reflecting pool. The parking lot boasts of an environmentally friendly bioswale system to catch water runoff and filter it. In addition, the Kia Design Center Europe has been open since 2007 in Frankfurt, Germany.
Kia has several manufacturing plants as well. The Sohari Plant was their first location, created in 1973. This is where the company’s first internal combustion engine was designed, followed by their first vehicle, the Brisa.
Other plants include the Hwaseong Plant, the Gwangju Plant, and the Seosan Plant, all located in South Korea. There’s also the Lai Plant located in Vietnam and the Žilina Plant situated in Slovakia. Their Yancheng Plant sits in China plus there’s the Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia found in West Point, Georgia, United States. The company’s Monterrey Plant (KMMX) is located in Mexico with a final plant, Kia Motors India, found in India.
Kia Motors America sold 589,658 units in 2017. Part of these sales was attributed to the expansion of their EcoDynamics footprint. They sold 27,237 Niro hybrid vehicles in less than 12 months despite the lack of availability. This made the Niro the third best-selling hybrid vehicle in the United States.
It was the best year of sales for the Forte line of compact vehicles as well. On top of that, there was a 53% increase in the Cadenza premium sedan sales, making it the highest annual sale since its American debut in 2013.
In total, three of the nameplates exceeded the 100,000-unit total of sales for the second consecutive year. They were the Optima, Forte, and Soul.
Hyundai Motor Company currently owns almost 34% stake in Kia Motors. In exchange, Kia holds part of 22 different Hyundai companies.
Aside from that, they are responsible for production in multiple countries including America, Europe, India, and Mexico.
Kia Defense is the branch of the company responsible for producing military vehicles. Their vehicles include a high-intense towing frame, folding windshields, electromagnetic interference, and the ability to start in extreme heat or cold. They also operate in steep levels of gradeability and offer a high fording depth. The vehicles feature off-road driving capability with 4×4 or 6×6 setups.
Some current models include the KLTV Series, KM450 Series, KM250 Series, KM500 Series, and the KM1500 Series.
There are few automobile logos that are as generic as Kia. It’s a text-based oval that spells out the company’s name minus a line in the letter “A.” Some people like the idea of simplicity, and from a marketing standpoint, it’s easy to remember.
What most people don’t know is that they have a separate South Korean logo that’s rarely seen outside the country. It’s often referred to as the “K” logo. It’s been used on many models in the country and is quite appealing. The sleek design features a diagonal double-line but lacks the vertical backbone.
It’s even been the inspiration behind the aftermarket 3.0 K emblem that some Kia drivers use to replace their logo with. According to the company, the oval represents earth while the 3D lettering design stands for their dynamic growth and leadership in the world. The brand’s color, red, stands for their determination to keep moving forward.
The company worked hard to create a good reputation with consumers. When it first arrived in America, it was seen as cheap, but they’ve stepped up the marketing game and have changed the minds of many consumers.
One of the more memorable advertising campaigns was the Kia Soul Shuffle. This featured a trio of dancing hamsters who took advice for their wardrobe from Malibu’s Most Wanted. Then, the company asked customers to submit their own videos of unique ways to do the Kia Soul Shuffle. Instantly, people turned to social media in an effort to win rewards.
The automaker also invests heavily into sports sponsorships. They’ve had deals with NBC’s Sunday Night Football as well as the 2014 FIFA World Cup, held in Brazil. They’ve even used Blake Griffin and Lebron James as the company’s ambassadors.
Here are some more of the teams, people, and events they currently sponsor:
- National Basketball Association (NBA)
- Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA)
- Archery World Cup
- Australian Open
- Copa América
- FIFA World Cup
- Kia Classic (LPGA)
- Korea Speed Festival
- X Games
- Atlanta Falcons
- Canterbury Bulldogs
- Global F.C.
- Kia Tigers
- Surrey County Cricket Club
- Kia Speed Skating Academy
- Ryan Ford
- LeBron James
- Blake Griffin
- Manny Pacquiao
- Michelle Wie
- Pierce Brosnan
- Christopher Walken
- Chase Bryant
- YouTube Music Awards
Some of their well-known slogans include KIA, The Cars That Cares, used from 2000 until 2005 and KIA, The Power to Surprise, which has been used since 2005.
Jumping into Racing
In 2009, Kia debuted two Forte vehicles they prepared for the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. They unveiled their plans at the Las Vegas Convention Center during SEMA. This news shocked many as the cars featured 2.4-liter engines that produced 240 horsepower. They were manufactured by Kinetic Motorsports, a team just northeast of Atlanta, Georgia. The company planned to become a racing brand.
One of the owners of Kinetic Racing was Russell Smith. He was from London and originally worked in insurance before growing bored of the industry. He attended the Panoz Racing School based in Atlanta which is where he met up with Nic Jonsson. Together, they founded Kinetic in 2005.
Initially, the company’s goal was to work on Porsche vehicles for the IMSA GT3 challenge. They ended up having more success with the BMW M3 instead. Then, Kia called them and the focus changed.
In the first year of racing, while everyone was mocking the company, they had two wins and arrived at the podium three times. During the second year of racing, they took a Team Championship and won the Driver’s Championship. That’s when people stopped laughing.
During 2011, the company offered the Rio B-Spec package to consumers, which was a success. By 2012, they moved to racing in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS class with their Optima Turbo. That’s when Kinetic Motorsports became the factory team. They invested all their efforts into working with the Optima. That was the year they won five races and took the Manufacturer’s Championships with the Forte and GTS Optima during the Touring Car A-Spec class. The driver, Jason Wolfe, also won the Driver’s Championship that year as well as Rookie of the Year. Kinetic also won Crew of the Year.
By 2015, they became the only Korean Car manufacturer to win the manufacturer’s championship. It’s also increased the brand image dramatically. Seeing the Kia line of vehicles winning races causes the American consumers to trust the brand more. Kia’s only requirement to Kinetic has been to keep the cars reliable. They didn’t want the public to see broken down vehicles on the race track. So far, the company has held to that promise for the most part.
The Optima isn’t your typical race car. It has 368 horsepower flowing through the front tires. It performs best on long tracks and uses a sequential six-speed transmission, built by Xtrac. They use engines manufactured from Sunbelt Engines, who also supplies parts to BMW club racing.
They’ve also converted some Forte stock vehicles into race cars. They were stripped down and built back up with unique springs, shocks, brakes, roll cages, and custom exhausts. The 1.6-liter turbo engine remained untouched plus they left in the six-speed manual transmission. It produces about 200 horsepower but is lighter than a typical stock car.
The company doesn’t stand behind Kinetic’s Forte program at this time. They helped supply the parts, but they don’t currently endorse the racing of the model. The goal of Kinetic Motorsports has been to get that to change in the future.
For Kia, who was once the underdog, and the company that people laughed at, their motorsports success is important. They started as a company that had something to prove and with the help of Kinetic Motorsports, that’s been accomplished. In the upcoming years, it will be interesting to see what innovations and new offerings the company has on the race track.
Hyundai Kia Museum
The Hyundai Kia R&D Museum is located in Hwaseong Gyeonggi in South Korea. It’s been open since 2007 and is part of the Hyundai Kia R&D Center. On exhibit, there are numerous vehicles of significance from both automakers. In total, 20 cars are on display with almost 200 in storage.
The museum isn’t open to the public, but rather, you must be invited to tour. In addition, employees of the group are also permitted to tour the museum. Most visits occur in small groups and there are many limitations when it comes to photography.
The 1969 T-600 is on display. This trucklet featured an air-cooled 600cc two-cylinder engine and had the capability to carry two and a half tons. There’s also a 1974 Brisa on display. It’s the company’s first passenger vehicle and based upon the Mazda Familia. The engine was sourced from Korea and featured 985cc that produced 61 horsepower.
The 1978 Asia K-111 followed the orders to stop production of cars. This military vehicle was based on the M38A1 from the United States Army. It has four-wheel drive and a 2.0-liter 69 horsepower engine.
Also on display is a 1987 Pride. The basis was from the Mazda 121 and this was the first vehicle exported to America. Sold under the Ford Festiva line, there was a sedan, wagon, and four-door hatch variant available. They also feature a 1987 Concord. This was based on the Mazda Capella and was powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produced 98 horsepower. It rivaled the Hyundai Sonata.
One of the most popular vehicles, the 1994 Sportage is on display, which was the company’s low-cost 4×4. It was sold as a four-door hardtop or two-door soft-top. There’s even a 1997 Elan on display, which was Korea’s first convertible model.
Kia Motors Finance
Kia Motors Finance is based out of Dallas, Texas. They offer solutions for consumers that want to purchase a Kia for sale, a pre-owned Kia vehicle, or a Kia on lease.
In addition to their financing options, there are several incentive programs they run. There’s a loyalty bonus for returning customers. They also offer a competitive bonus for people switching from another brand. Military offers are valid for active members of the U.S. Armed Forces, immediate family members, and reserves.
They also offer some insurance options which are provided by Liberty Mutual. The Power Protect program covers qualifying customers with additional savings on auto insurance each year. Aside from the lower cost, there are several other benefits to the program. They offer discounts when vehicles have specific safety features. There’s also New Car Replacement coverage. If the Kia is a total loss and a year old or less, the company will give you the money to buy a new one. With their Accident Forgiveness coverage, the insurance premium doesn’t increase as a result of the first accident.
There are over 750 Kia dealerships located in the United States. To find the best one, consumers must look for the Kia Dealer Excellence Program Award. This prestigious honor is given to the top dealerships in the country that maintain high levels of value to the consumer plus perform in multiple areas. They show a high level of commitment to sales, service, training, staffing, cleanliness, and capacity. There are fewer than 20% of the dealerships that have won this award, so you know you are getting top-notch service when you find one.
Another place to look is the J.D. Power Dealer of Excellence Listing. Currently, only one dealership has made it to the list, which is Jeff Wyler Kia of Springfield, Ohio.
5 Interesting Facts about Kia
1 – The name Kia comes from a Sino-Korean heritage. The ‘Ki’ stands for “to come out” while the ‘a’ stands for “Asia.” That means that Kia is translated to “One, that came out of the east.”
2 – The company has production facilities located on all the continents other than Australia.
3 – Most of the vehicles receive their name from a geographical object. Cerato means “peak” in Greek, Mohave is the desert found in the southwest part of the country, and Sorento is named after a city in Italy.
4 – Kia is part of the Hyundai Motor Group along with Genesis. Together, they make up the world’s fourth-largest automobile group. They fall behind Volkswagen, Toyota, and General Motors.
5 – Even though Kia and Hyundai are owned by the same group, they don’t cross-badge or share any visible parts with one another. With that said, they do have some shared platforms or hidden components on the vehicles.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Kias Good Cars? Much like the Hyundai brand, Kia tends to deliver a competent and stylish vehicle for less money than the competition. They receive high ratings when it comes to consumer satisfaction and reliability as well. On top of that, the cost of ownership is lower than most other brands.
Where are Kia Cars Made? Most of the vehicles are produced at the Sohari Plant located in South Korea. They have several other plants located in the country as well as some in Vietnam, China, Slovakia, Mexico and India. Their plant in the United States is found in West Point Georgia. At this location, they have the capacity to produce 300,000 vehicles each year. Production began at that plant with the second-generation Sorento in 2009. Now, they produce the third-generation Sorento plus the fourth-generation Optima.
Who Owns Kia? Does Kia Own Hyundai? They are together under the same automotive group, but as of 2013, Hyundai owned 33.88% of Kia Motors.
Does Kia Make a Truck? They were talking of a Kia Pickup Truck Concept in 2017, but nothing has been released as of yet. The goal was to compete against the Ford Ranger, so we might see one in the future.
Why are Kia Cars so Cheap? While they are reliable, offer good fuel mileage and are easy to insure, they aren’t thrilling to drive. Furthermore, the powertrains aren’t anything to write home about, but they offer what you need if a low-budget car is a priority. In addition, they don’t provide many of the same high-end features of other brands, which helps keep the cost down.
Is There a Kia with a 3rd Row? The Sorento has a third-row seat and has been an award-winning mid-size SUV.