From copy shop to future workshop
With electric vehicles like the EV6, Kia is now part of the Tesla Hunters’ Club and with the development of self-driving robotic taxis, the Koreans are showing how they understand the mobility of tomorrow. It is hard to believe that the origins of this technology-savvy brand can be found in copies of old Mazda, Fiat and Peugeot.
SP-X / Cologne. Kia knows how global careers go. According to the Korean principle of seeing the whole world as an economic engine, the “rising star from Asia” (as the brand name Kia means) began 60 years ago with the help of Mazda copies as the first car manufacturer to get its home market on the wheels – and at the same time to stimulate exports to neighboring countries. According to the will of the political leadership, South Korea was supposed to become a “Ppalli-ppalli-Culture”, a rapidly developing society, and automobile production at Kia accelerated the leap of the poor tiger state into the club of industrialized nations. In 1961, when Kia introduced the small Type 360, the all-destructive and country-dividing Korean War was only eight years ago, and yet observers called it, what Seoul had achieved in the economic field was already the “miracle of the Han River”. Kia had contributed to this since 1951 with the first national bicycle production and now it was replicas of Mazda and soon also Fiat and Peugeot models that drove the rise. In the 1970s and 1980s, Kia seemed to succeed in everything, with the Titan as the first Korean truck, the takeover of competitor Asia Motors and the small Pride as a global million seller, which was sold at Mazda (121) and Ford (Festiva) at the same time. Nevertheless: Kia as the eighth largest global car manufacturer and high-tech brand with the new EV6 was unthinkable even back in 1993 when Germany started. Because the Asians never lacked drama. Kia had contributed to this since 1951 with the first national bicycle production and now it was replicas of Mazda and soon also Fiat and Peugeot models that drove the rise. In the 1970s and 1980s, Kia seemed to succeed in everything, with the Titan as the first Korean truck, the takeover of competitor Asia Motors and the small Pride as a global million seller, which was sold at Mazda (121) and Ford (Festiva) at the same time.
Nevertheless: Kia as the eighth largest global car manufacturer and high-tech brand with the new EV6 was unthinkable even back in 1993 when Germany started. Because the Asians never lacked drama. Kia had contributed to this since 1951 with the first national bicycle production and now it was replicas of Mazda and soon also Fiat and Peugeot models that drove the rise. In the 1970s and 1980s, Kia seemed to succeed in everything, with the Titan as the first Korean truck, the takeover of competitor Asia Motors and the small Pride as a global million seller, which was sold at Mazda (121) and Ford (Festiva) at the same time. Nevertheless: Kia as the eighth largest global car manufacturer and high-tech brand with the new EV6 was unthinkable even back in 1993 when Germany started. Because the Asians never lacked drama. with the Titan as the first Korean truck, the takeover of the competitor Asia Motors and the small Pride as a global million seller, which was sold at Mazda (121) and Ford (Festiva) at the same time. Nevertheless: Kia as the eighth largest global car manufacturer and high-tech brand with the new EV6 was unthinkable even back in 1993 when Germany started. Because the Asians never lacked drama. with the Titan as the first Korean truck, the takeover of the competitor Asia Motors and the small Pride as a global million seller, which was sold at Mazda (121) and Ford (Festiva) at the same time. Nevertheless: Kia as the eighth largest global car manufacturer and high-tech brand with the new EV6 was unthinkable even back in 1993 when Germany started. Because the Asians never lacked drama.
It all started so hopefully. With Mazda licenses, Kia pushed the Korean economic miracle and politicians used dirigistic measures to initiate exports. In the 1970s, this specifically meant that Kia and Hyundai (also car makers since 1967) had to export five vehicles in order to be able to sell a car in their home country. With the replicas of the relatively expensive Fiat 132 and Peugeot 604 (at that time the Korean state limousine), Kia could not meet these requirements, which is why production came to a standstill in 1984 and 1985. By this first politically enforced lockdown, however, the resourceful Kia designers were already turning the big wheel: They motorized the country with Kei cars, Fiat 124 copies (from 1970), the Titan truck (a generic name for Truck), the compact bestseller and Mazda replica Brisa (from 1973) and, after the takeover of Asia Motors, also with off-roaders. What was missing was an in-house development, like the one Hyundai had in the program with the pony.
Hosting the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul provided the impetus for this. The South Korean government gave the economy more freedom and Kia used this for a new cooperation with Ford and Mazda and the launch of the 3.57 meter short city runabout Pride, which also caused a sensation in Germany as a price breaker in the 1990s. Above all, however, it was the completely new compact world car Sephia, presented in 1991, with which Kia first surprised in North America and two years later anchored in the motherland of the automobile: in 1993, the first Sephia destined for Germany rolled overboard in Bremerhaven, while the SUV -Pionier Sportage for Europe was assembled at the Karmann body shop in Osnabrück.
The three-year guarantee promise, which Kia extended to seven years with the Ceed in 2007, was spectacular. In fact, it was also the quality – Kia has the third lowest recall rate of all volume manufacturers in the world to this day – that transformed the unknown underdog from Asia into a global market leader in less than 20 years, despite many curious types such as Clarus, Carens, Rocsta or Retona, which have long been forgotten today trend-setting technology, which is why even Pope Francis uses an electric Kia Soul today.
Before that, however, the Koreans had to overcome hurdles. At the beginning of 1997 Kia got into economic difficulties due to the Asian financial crisis and the Hyundai Business Group took over Kia Motors in 1998. A turning point that temporarily left no room for costly extravagances. In fact, Kia caused a sensation in the sports car scene with the continuation of the Lotus Elan production. The brand’s first global hit with a coolness factor was the inexpensive Sorento SUV, which was visually reminiscent of the Mercedes M-Class, but possibly even surpassed it in terms of quality. Up to 18 months delivery time for a cheap Korean: the Sorento customers accepted it! It only took a few years until the big breakthrough. While vans like the Carnival and baroque sedans like Magentis and Opirus only really succeeded in America and Asia, Kia won final recognition in Europe through a development center opened with Hyundai in Rüsselsheim and the Ceed compact class model (“Community of Europe, with European Design”). ), which was produced in a new Slovak plant. Europe in focus, as shown by the appointment of the former VW chief designer Peter Schreyer as the designer of the Kia and Hyundai design idiom.
It went on at an almost breathtaking pace. Traditional European mass brands such as Ford, Fiat, Citroen or Opel suddenly began to respect or even fear Kia, while other Asian importers such as Nissan or Suzuki were clearly left behind in terms of market shares in the old world. After all, Hyundai-Kia knew how to make clever use of synergies early on, as can be seen in 2013 in 40 models that were built on just six platforms. At that time, E-mobility had already begun at Kia with Ray and Soul and sporty dynamics such as the Kia Stinger, introduced in 2017 as a six-cylinder flagship, were coordinated at the new Nürburgring test center. Since 2018, the compact crossover Kia Niro has been one of the very first series to be available in three alternative drive forms, namely as a hybrid, Plug-in hybrid and fully electric. The whole globe as the engine of evolution – this strategy seems to have worked for Kia. This also includes models such as Optima, Candenza and Telluride (with 3.8-liter V6), which only work in selected markets, or costly style exercises such as the current Shootingbrake Proceed as an extravagant alternative to the classic station wagon Ceed Sportswagon.
Today, in the anniversary year, Kia is already part of the Tesla Hunters Club, as the new EV6 and the financial commitment to the electric sports car manufacturer Rimac show. Above all, however, the Koreans no longer want to follow other corporations, but rather set the direction themselves. This is what the coming, autonomously driving types with fuel cell drives, self-driving robotic taxis and shuttles and creative mobility services stand for. There is no future without an origin: This credo obviously does not apply to Kia, because the “rising star from Asia” is not celebrating the 60th anniversary of its automobile production.
Kia model family tree:
Kia K360 (from 1961)
Kia-Fiat 124 (from 1970)
Kia Titan (from 1971)
Kia Brisa (from 1973)
Kia-Peugeot 604 (from 1979)
Kia-Fiat 132 (from 1979)
Kia-Mazda Bongo (from 1980)
Kia Concord / Capital (from 1987)
Kia Pride (from 1987)
Kia Besta (from 1990, evolution of the Bongo)
Kia Asia Rocsta (from 1990)
Kia Sephia (from 1991)
Kia Sportage (from 1991)
Kia Pride / Avella (1995)
Kia Potentia (from 1995)
Kia Pregio (from 1995)
Kia Credos (from 1995)
Kia Clarus (from 1996)
Kia Roadster (from 1996)
Kia K2500 / K2700 (from 1996)
Kia Carnival (from 1998)
Kia Enterprise (from 1998)
Kia Retona (from 1998)
Kia Shuma (from 1999)
Kia Joice (from 1999)
Kia Carens (from 1999)
Kia Rio (from 1999)
Kia Optima (from 2000)
Kia Magentis (from 2001)
Kia Sorento (from 2002)
Kia Opirus / Amanti / K7 / Cadenza (from 2003)
Kia Cerato / Forte (from 2003)
Kia Picanto (from 2004)
Kia Ceed (from 2007)
Kia Pro-Ceed (from 2008)
Kia Soul (from 2008, including E-Soul)
Kia Venga (from 2009)
Kia K9 / K900 / Quoris (from 2012)
Kia Niro (from 2016 or e-Niro since 2018)
Kia Stinger (from 2017)
Kia Stonic (from 2017)
Kia Xceed (from 2019)
Kia Telluride ( from 2019)
Kia Seltos (from 2019)
Kia Sonet (from 2020)
Kia K8 (from 2020)
Kia EV6 (from 2021)
The Kia predecessor company Kyungsung Precision Industry is founded on December 1st and produces bicycle components
Kyungsung Precision Industry is the first Korean company to export goods abroad, initially to Hong Kong
Kyungsung operates as Kia Industrial Company and begins production of the first Samcholli-ho type bicycle in Korea. “ki” stands for ascend and “a” for Asia, so “ascent from Asia”
Kia begins the license production of the Mazda K360, a three-wheeler transporter and the motorcycle C-100, the prelude for the Korean vehicle industry in larger volume
Founding of Asia Motors, a commercial vehicle and off-road specialist, whose products will be offered by Kia in Germany from 1994 onwards
Kia intends to expand its product range to include passenger cars and conducts negotiations with Fiat
The Fiat 124 is made from CKD sets at Kia built
Kia produces the Mazda Titan truck under license, which is so successful that the word “titanium” becomes synonymous with trucks in Korea.
Kia starts production of the first Korean petrol engine (2.0 liter) in the new plant in Sohari near Seoul. The Kia Brisa was the first small Korean car to be launched in 1974, a Mazda license in
the Kia Brisa pick-up went into series production and was also exported
Kia takes over competitor Asia Motors. Kia Defense begins manufacturing military vehicles in
Kia builds the first Korean diesel engine
Kia builds the Peugeot 604 and Fiat 132 under license
The Kia derivative of the Mazda 121 becomes the Kia Pride with almost two million units, making it the first Kia million dollar success . Kia also manufactures the Ford variant (Festiva) of the Pride. In contrast, the Kia Concord is based on the Mazda 626
Kia celebrates the delivery of the millionth passenger car. Development start for the Sephia as the first completely independently developed model in
Kia trades as Kia Motors Corporation
Hyundai started selling in Germany. The independently developed Kia models Sephia and Sportage made their debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in
The Kia Asan Bay plant on the Chinese sea, designed for one million units per year, goes into operation in June with the start of production of the Sephia. America becomes the most important non-Asian market for Kia
Kia reaches an annual production of 600,000 units, which is to be increased to one million units by 1995. Presentation of the Kia Sportage, which started the global SUV hype. Deutsche Kia Automobil GmbH is founded in April in Neu Wulmstorf near Hamburg under the management of Carl Dommermuth and Nikolai Tchoumakov, who also run Lada Germany. Official starting shot for Kia Germany on August 26th on the Petersberg near Bonn with a press presentation of the Sephia model. From September 210 dealers will be available, all of which are also Lada dealers. Sales of the Sephia start on September 24th. At that time, the Kia guarantee promise of three years or 100,000 kilometers was exceptional. In the first year, Kia imported 3,800 vehicles to Germany
Kia Germany has 450 dealers and starts the sales campaign “Kia ist da!” Under a red and white flag. The long-wheelbase Kia Sportage all-wheel-drive SUV made its debut in April, followed by the two-door Kia Sportage hardtop in June. The Sportage is optionally available with diesel and is assembled by Karmann in Osnabrück. From autumn delivery of the Kia Asia Rocsta, an off-road vehicle with a 1.8-liter gasoline engine (57 kW / 78 PS) or 2.2-liter diesel (45 kW / 61 PS),
Kia Motors Europe is founded and takes over Year later Kia Motors Germany. The Kia Pride (related to Mazda 121) i
During the Asian crisis, annual Kia production fell from 730,000 to 460,000 cars in 1997. The Kia Shuma was launched as the brand’s modern compact class model, replacing the Sephia. Transporter Kia Pregio is presented as the successor to the Kia Besta. Kia Carnival debuts as the first SUV. In Korea, Kia comes under administration as a result of the Asian financial crisis. The Hyundai Business Group takes over Kia Motors in
With the compact van Joice, Kia enters a new segment. The Kia Retona SUV replaces the Kia Rocsta. Kia shows profit again from
The Kia Carens is launched as a medium-sized van
Kia Rio is introduced. Kia wins the Korea Quality Grand Prize, one of the highest quality awards. Kia Magentis replaced the Clarus in the middle class in
The Kia Sorento was introduced and brought the brand’s final breakthrough in Germany in
the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group emerged from the Hyundai Business Group. Hyundai and Kia open a European development and design center in Rüsselsheim. In Germany, Kia sells 27,089 vehicles of the types Rio, Carnival, Carens, Sorento, Shuma, Magentis, Opirus (newly introduced flagship) and Pregio
As a full-range supplier : the Kia Picanto and Cerato (Shuma successor) models are new.
Kia achieves more than 50,000 registrations in Germany for the first time (sales increase of 46.1 percent) and increases its market share to 1.5 percent. Global sales of Kia vehicles are 1.1 million units. New generations of the Sportage and Rio
Models : Peter Schreyer becomes chief designer at Kia and introduces the “Tiger Nose”, the trademark of the brand, with the Kia Kee concept car in 2007. Europe in focus, this is also shown by the future compact class model Ceed for the “Community of Europe, with European Design”
German market launch of the Kia Ceed developed in Rüsselsheim, production since the end of 2006 in the new Zilina plant (Slovakia). In September, a new Kia European headquarters will be opened in Frankfurt, where Kia Motors Germany and the European Kia design center will also have their headquarters.
The compact crossover Kia Soul and the Kia Venga will be presented as a small van. Opening of the first US Kia plant (West Point, Georgia)
Worldwide Kia annual sales exceed the 2 million mark for the first time. The third generation of the Kia Optima is the first Kia completely designed by Peter Schreyer and aims as a spearhead against the German middle class. Kia is the first manufacturer in Europe to offer a seven-year guarantee on new vehicles
The Kia Ray goes into series production as the brand’s first electric model. The new Picanto and the new Rio celebrate their premiere at the Geneva Motor Show
World premiere of the second generation of the Cee’d at the Geneva Motor Show. Sales increase in Germany by 30 percent to almost 55,000 units
New structures, 40 different models are created on six platforms (in 2002 there were 22 at Hyundai-Kia) (in 2002 there were 28). Kia Germany achieved new records for registrations (55,654 units) and market share (1.9 percent). New generations of soul and carens. Hyundai Motor Group opens test center for all Hyundai and Kia models at the Nürburgring. Kia chief designer Peter Schreyer is appointed one of three presidents of Kia Motors Corporation and takes over the position of group design chief for Kia and Hyundai
Factory opening in Mexico
Global sales of Kia vehicles are 3.05 million units, which means that the number has tripled in ten years. Production anniversaries at the Kia plant in Zilina / Slovakia, where the two millionth Kia manufactured in Europe rolls off the assembly line. Third generation of the Kia Sorento
Kia achieves sales records. In Germany, the brand sells over 60,000 units for the first time (exactly 60,522 units) with a market share of 1.8 percent. For the first time, there are more than 3 million units worldwide. Hyundai-Kia ranks fifth in the international group ranking with around 7.2 million units. Sales anniversary in Germany with 777,777 Kia vehicles since market launch. Germany launch of Kia Sportage (fourth generation), Niro, Optima Sportswagon and Optima Plug-in Hybrid, world premiere of a new Rio generation
The number of Kia vehicles on German roads is 588,269 units. This year, Kia achieved 64,068 registrations and a market share of 1.9 percent in this country. The ambitious six-cylinder flagship of the Kia Stinger and the compact crossover Kia Stonic are new. Kia presents an e-strategy, but continues to rely on conventional drive types, even as a diesel hybrid
Albert Biermann, who has been responsible for high-performance models in the Hyundai Kia group since 2015, becomes the group’s first non-Korean head of development. Kia Sportage breaks the 5 million mark in global production. Kia celebrates its tenth consecutive sales record in Europe with 494,304 units. Kia opens an assembly plant in Pakistan