Kia cars are manufactured by Kia Motors, South Korea's 2nd largest automobile manufacturer with headquarters in Yangjae-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul, South Korea. The American arm is Kia Motors America. It started building its first US assembly plant in West Point, Georgia on October 20, 2006 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.
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 its Kia cars 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).It is now based at a new purpose built facility adjacent to the Messe in Frankfurt city centre.
From 1995 to 1999 Kia produced left and right hand drive Kia cars 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.
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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 Kia cars 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 these Kia cars 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.