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Is Kia Thinking About Introducing A Luxury Brand?
What makes a luxury car?
It’s a moot point, with brands like Mercedes-Benz dipping their toes in the mid-market with the CLA sedan.
Does this model somehow negate the glorious motoring history of the brand? Or is it just a sign of the times?
The reason for asking this question is that both Kia and Hyundai are making moves in the other direction: from the mass market to the luxury market.
Does the K900 mean Kia will shortly be introducing a separate brand for its luxury cars?
Hyundai has already done exactly this with its Genesis brand becoming the umbrella name for all its future luxury models.
Yet the signs are that Kia will resist the temptation.
For instance here is Kia’s U.S. COO, Michael Spague, who claims that as luxury manufacturers are invading the turf of mass-market motors, there just is no need for a separate brand.
“The dynamic, the environment’s changed. I don’t know if you have to go out and establish something new. Mercedes have got their $229,000 vehicle and they’ve got their $29,000 vehicle. They didn’t go to market with a separate brand once they crossed that threshold of, say, sub-$40,000.”
“I would say we’re still in launch mode for the K900 and Cadenza,” he adds.
Similarly Kia’s design guru, Peter Schreyer, is on record echoing these sentiments. He has claimed that Kia does not need a standalone luxury brand, and that such a brand could do more harm than good.
“In one way to create a luxury brand could be a charming idea. On the other hand, I think if those cars that are in the luxury segment would still be called [the same] then it makes the brand stronger.”
“If you separate it too much you have to spend billions in advertising and making that brand known,” he added citing Lexus as a case in point.
“It took them 30 years to really get where they are. To make this their ‘own’ brand. At the same time image-wise it did not pull Toyota [up] at all, because it’s Lexus. This is why I think in our case it is the better way to not do it.”
It remains to be seen which way Kia will head.
With the launch of the V-6 K900 this year it looks certain that sales will pick up.
The V-8 established the model as a credible luxury vehicle but, certainly in the US, data that shows 70% of sales in the mid-large sedan segment are V6-equipped cars.
It could be full-steam ahead but will it be separate brand ahoy?
Time will tell.