The History of Kia Motors

As South Korea’s Oldest Auto Manufacturer, The History Of Kia Motors Is An Interesting One

Updated September 2, 2018

The history of Kia Motors stretches back to 1944, when the company was first founded. Though Kia did not start out manufacturing vehicles they were manufacturing steel tubing and building bicycle frames and various parts by hand.

History of Kia Motors 1

In 1951 Kia Industries would begin production of its first motor scooter model C-100 from its new Shihung Factory. By 1957 Kia Industries was producing its first motorcycle, the C180. Soon following the first production model motorcycle would be the K360 which would be Kia’s first truck. This would lead to several other truck platforms being produced.

In 1972 Kia would establish the Kia Service Co and just two years later would be the introduction of Kia automotive after its Sohari plant opens making for the first fully integrated production facility as well as South Korea’s first production internal combustion engine.  Kia would start the manufacturing process for the Peugeot 604 and the Fiat 132 making the company start to expand its operations. Through the late 70’s and early 80’s Kia was picking up more contracts from other auto manufactures which lead the company to invest in its own research and development center in 1984.

History of Kia Motors 2

In 1986 Kia would work with Ford Motor Company which owned Mazda, to produce the Pride which was based on the Mazda 121 and would be exported to North America. In 1991 Kia announces that it will enter the U.S. marketplace starting in Portland, Oregon and slowly move east one region at a time. This would lead to the incorporation of Kia Motors America. Kia would introduce the Sephia and the Sportage for sale through a continually growing network of 20 auto dealerships. By 1995 Kia had over 100 dealerships located in 30 states across central and western United States and records sales records of 24,740 which more than double the previous year records. In 1997 Kia would sell its 100,000th vehicle in the United States through its continually growing network of more than 170 dealerships.

Who Owns Kia Motors?

A huge turning point in Kia history happened in the mid 1990s. In 1997, Kia would get caught up in the Asian finical crisis that would cause Kia to file for bankruptcy. At this time the Hyundai Motor Company would fight the Ford Motor Company for a 51% stake in Kia, this would give Hyundai rights and control over the company even though their shares would become closer to 49% due to divestments. Today, Kia is a subsidiary of the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group. By 1999 Kia would become the fifth largest import brand and would sell 134,594 vehicles during that year.

Kia Motor sales worldwide begin to increase rapidly it is now sold in 172 countries. Today Kia employees over 43,000 individuals worldwide introduces 1.5 million vehicles each year from its 13 manufacturing and assembly plant located in eight countries. Most notable is its Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia plant located in West Point, Georgia. This facility cost over $1 billion and is set up on 2200 acres comprising of two point 2,200,000 ft.² of space and is capable of producing over 300,000 vehicles from this facility alone.

History of Kia Motors 3


Today Kia has over 640 dealerships located in the United States and now continually sales over 300,000 vehicles in the US alone. Kia has seven different models to choose from in several different variants.

  • Forte – Compact
  • Forte 5-door – Compact 5-door Hatchback/Wagon
  • Forte Koup  – Compact 2 Dr Coupe
  • Optima – Mid-Size Sedan
  • Optima Hybrid – Mid-Size Sedan with Hybrid Electric/Petroleum Powertrain
  • Rio – Sub-Compact
  • Rio 5-door – Sub-Compact 5-door Hatchback/Wagon
  • Soul – Compact Crossover
  • Sorento – Full-Size SUV
  • Sportage – Compact SUV
  • Sedona – Minivan

These models include a full spectrum of vehicles from compact car the full-size SUV’s and Kia has worked to find a niche in the automotive world and fulfill it. Kia and Hyundai are booth utilizing newer engine designs that utilize direct injection as well has higher compression ratios in order to deliver more efficiency. Kia is also working to lighten the overall weight of its lineup of vehicles and utilize more efficient transmission designs. Kia is also working on development of more hybrid and electric powertrain vehicles for introduction in the near future. For today Kia and its sister company Hyundai continue to be some of the fastest-growing automotive manufacturers in the world and continue to grow in size as well as diversity.



Uriah Nazario
About Uriah Nazario

If you are easily offended and like to comment about how your feelings are hurt then you won't like my style of writing. I speak my mind (which is deranged) and yes it is often offensive. I am open for debate but not whining. I appreciate all my readers and hope my articles put a smile on your face.

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