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Kia hopes to stay ahead of rivals with innovative designs
Kia Motors Corp. is the country’s second largest carmaker and forms the smaller part of the world’s fifth largest automaker, Hyundai Kia Automotive Group. Although the company has enjoyed stable growth in the local market, its international reputation has been less than desirable until recently.
In order to address the problem and increase its presence in the world market, the company came up with a comprehensive plan to differentiate itself from Hyundai Motor Co. and improve its reputation.
In 2005, the company announced the plans to implement “brand management” tactics in its efforts to become one of the world’s leading carmakers. From the beginning design has been at the core of the three-stage plan that began in 2005. The first stage ran from 2005-2007 and consisted of drawing up detailed plans for brand management.
The main targets for the second stage, which runs from this year until 2010, are establishing brand management and review systems and launching vehicles that represent the company’s brand identity.
The final stage will begin in 2011 to run through 2015 during which the company plans to strengthen the global brand management system and review the target management system and its brand identity. Having set out with the plans in 2005, the company began to make visible changes in 2006.
In September of that year, the company created the new post of chief design officer when it recruited Peter Schreyer, the former Volkswagen AG designer who helped to create the Volkswagen New Beetle and the Audi TT, to take charge of its design-related operations.
The company installed a design center equipped with design and modeling studios and a preview hall, the roof of which can be opened to let in sunlight to allow new cars to be viewed under natural light, within its European headquarters building in Frankfurt, Germany that was completed in September 2007. In addition, the Kia Design Center America in Irvine, California was finished in June pushing up the number of design facilities to four.
Kia Motors Corp.`s chief design officer Peter Schreyer (left) and Kia Motors America’s chief designer Tom Kearns pose with the concept car Koup at the 2008 New York International Auto Show held in March.
The company has even changed the design of its official documents to include the word “design” with the letter s replaced a question mark and the letter “i” with a light bulb to highlight the emphasis it places on design.
Through its efforts, Kia Motors has introduced a number of striking concept cars at various international motor shows and the results of the company’s efforts are beginning to show on the streets. The company has gone from a maker of affordable but drab-looking cars that had little to set them apart from vehicles from other local firms to a company that produces cars that stand out.
The company’s efforts at creating vehicles that look and feel different from competing models is not just helping Kia Motors to lift its cars out of the crowd but also to delay the seemingly inevitable plunge into the industry-wide slump.
In October, the company saw its sales rise by an impressive 33.9 percent from the same month last year, despite the depressing economic conditions that led all other carmakers to suffer sales setbacks. The rise was mainly attributed to the three new cars, Lotze Innovation, the crossover utility vehicle Soul and the compact Forte, that also happens to be the models to the company is referring to as the accumulation of its efforts at introducing improved and innovative designs in its vehicles.
“The Mohave is the first vehicle to embody Schreyer’s “simplicity of the straight line” principle, but the car does not bear the family look that came later, so it tends to be left out of the list,” a Kia Motors official said. Mohave is a full-sized sport utility vehicle launched on the local market in January.
“Lotze Innovation is the first to have the family look, which is the grill that visualizes a tiger’s nose and mouth, developed by the chief design officer.”
Although the Lotze Innovation and the Forte have the new distinct grill and have generally sharper and sleeker bodies than their predecessors, they are not so different from other Kia models as to be unrecognizable as Kias.
The more striking change in Kia Motors’ design came in the form of the CUV Soul. In terms of performance, the Soul an ordinary car. The car is available with either a 1.6-liter or a 2-liter gasoline engine or a 1.6-liter diesel engine. The 1.6-liter gasoline engine’s power output tops out at 124 brake horsepower while the diesel engine provides a maximum of 128 hp.
In terms of design, however, the Soul is a small car with a difference. Shunning the featureless curves typical of Korean-made vehicles, the designers have used a box-like design more often seen in Japanese cars and have applied some unique design features in the Soul.
In addition to its exterior, the company has given the Soul unusual interior design features. The Soul’s more striking interior features include its lighting speakers. The Soul’s lighting speakers, which have built-in lights that change color along with the music, are the first to be used in a Korean-made car. The car can also be fitted with seat covers that have its name written in materials that glow in the dark.
The car is available in 11 different colors, some of which were created especially for the vehicle, and buyers can pick and choose from a host of customization features, including exterior decorations to build a car that suits the taste of individual consumers.
“Although the latest technology has been applied to the car, design features, like the lighting speakers, are what really make the car different,” said a Kia Motors official. “The Soul is representative of the company’s future direction and the emphasis we place on design.”
This article was written by Choi He-suk, a Korea Herald Business Desk Staff Reporter and was originally published at Korea Herald website. Mr. Choi He-suk gave us a permission to re-publish his article on KIA-WORLD blog. Thank you, Mr. Choi He-suk!