Kia Seeks Premium Brand Status by 2017

Kia K9

Kia aims to be a "first class brand" by 2017, according to Kia Motors Vice Chairman Lee Hyung-keun. The carmaker plans to make this happen by introducing luxury vehicles like the Kia Cadenza (below), the Kia K9 (above) and the Sorento R, and by participating in more sports sponsorships, according to The Korea Herald.

Lee's announcement happened at a large gathering of Kia dealer franchise owners in Vancouver last month; over 100 countries were represented.

Kia Cadenza

While Kia has performed well in the U.S. and other markets in terms of sales, the brand's reputation has lagged, especially when compared with its kin Hyundai. Like Hyundai, Kia has seen its sales increase sharply — it will likely exceed 550,000 this year in the U.S., double the sales pace of 2008 — but the smaller Korean carmaker has increasingly used incentives to move its vehicles, according to Bloomberg News. Hyundai has decreased incentives by 26% this year (to $823 per vehicle) whereas Kia has increased its incentives by 8.5%, to $1,677 per vehicle, according to Autodata.

Furthermore, while the Hyundai brand is considered by 20% of new-car shoppers, only 9% of consumers considered Kia, according to Strategic Vision. This means Kias are considered by fewer car shoppers than those who look at Dodge- or Chrysler-brand vehicles while Hyundai is cross-shopped as often as Chevy or Volkswagen, according to the study.

As a member of the Hyundai Motor Group, Kia shares most of its engines, transmissions and car platforms with its bigger sibling, but both maintain separate factories, finance, sales and design operations. That means the carmaker should have access to the same parts that put together the V-8-powered Hyundai Genesis sedan and Equus. So far, Kia has yet to offer any rear-wheel-drive premium vehicles. That will change when the K9 — which looks eerily like the BMW 7 Series — comes to the U.S.

Lee also said the K9 does not represent an attempt by Kia to make a separate luxury brand. like Hyundai, Kia's premium vehicles will bear the brand's emblem.

Kia Motors Vows to Become Premium Brand by 2017 (The Korea Herald)

More Kia News Premium Vehicle Comparison 
Kia Reveals Flagship Plans



Not gonna work. No one is going to buy an overpriced KIA. Hyundai doesn't even sell that many Equus and is percieved as superior over KIA. It's like Wal-Mart selling designer knock off clothes. Even Nissan; which is a larger company took 20 years to firmly establish Infiniti even though they were known for racing and superior engines. KIA? I think they are still associated with the bargain bin no matter how much lipstick you put on the thing.


Agree. The biggest mistake Hyundai made is selling the Genesis and Equus as Hyundais. It sounds like Kia is wanting to make the same error.


I mean, it's not like the Equus was a rip off the S-class and don't be surprised when the K9 looks alot like the 5/7 series.


It looks more like a 5-Series GT with a Jaguar XF profile to me!


I think Kia has always had aspirations to move upmarket. I remember when I rented an older Optima for the first time. It was weird looking but drove nice and I found out later that Porsche designed the transmission in that car for KIA.

I agree with "M". Why put substantial money into KIA when there are better cars out there for the money? If I have the money to burn, I'm going to put it into something more substantial.


The K9 is no more a "knock-off" than the Genesis was. It's a premium platform with an engine, transmission, and technology that is competitive with cars selling tens of thousands more.


Let's face it anyone buying a $50,000 plus vehicle is doing it at least partially as a status symbol. Regardless how good the car is don't see Kia gaining that reputation anytime soon.


Your also leaving out the ownership experience. Luxury buyers like to be pampered when they bring their vehicles in for service and will frown if they get a Kia Rio or an Enterprise rental for a loaner. If Kia and Hyundai doesn't want to invest in a stand alone luxury brand, they should split the cost between them and create a joint venture. That way no one would think they are driving a clone of the other.



Nailed it!

Derrick G

I don't think they're going for LUXURY, but rather premium. I found a good explanation on the 'net. The Hyatt isn't premium if you're used to a W, but is if your previous experience has been with Holiday Inn. I think that's more of what they're going for.


@Derrick G

Hyundai, in their sales materials, has often compared the new Azera to Lexus. Now, I consider Lexus to be a luxury vehicle. If you consider Lexus to be a premium brand than I would agree with you but we would still have a conflict of definition.

Derrick G


Comparing mass-market cars to luxury brands has been going on for years. Remember the Granada commercials comparing it to a Mercedes? Did that mean Ford was trying to become a luxury brand? No; it was, like Hyundai, doing some puffing.


@Derrick G

Yeah, good point but I actually think Hyundai is serious about people cross shopping while Ford wasn't IMO.


Please try to understand that the Genesis and Equus are for branding. It boosts sales of the Sonata, Elantra, and Accent. They are not trying to make loads of profits selling the Genesis and Equus. If they create a separate brand for those two cars, Hyundai's image will not be as good.


Oh, like Lexus was bad for Toyota and Acura was bad for Honda and Infiniti was bad for Nissan? I don't think any of these luxury brands hurt the image of the parent company at all and actually enhance. Hyundai is just trying to do it on the cheap and I think it will cost them in the long run.


Majority of people just don't understand the specialties that go into a luxury product. It doesn't matter if Kia makes a "luxury" car, they are not a luxury company. When I bought my BMW I didn't just buy it for the great performance, over engineering, and quality materials. I also bought it because of the lifestyle. When I get my car serviced I don't sit in a small room in plastic chairs loaded with immigrants and free donuts. I sit in a large luxurious waiting room filled with the latest amenities. I am offered salads, sandwiches, deserts, and various drinks at no charge. If my wait is long, I am always offered a courtesy car which is always a new and impressive vehicle. I am invited to many social events where I can network with others and enjoy myself, such as Palm Beach Polo events.

Kia boasts about low operating costs. If you are buying a luxury car you shouldn't care about how much it costs to repair and operate. If you do, then most likely you are living out of your means. I laugh when I see someone pull up to me in these bargain luxury and used luxury cars with attitude. I just see people trying to live a lifestyle they cant afford. There is no shame in driving a 20k car. I could buy a ferrari, but I'd be spending a huge chunk of my income on it, so I live within my means. Guess thats why I have money......

I am driving 2014 Kia Sorento SX my opinion it is well worth to buy Kia. Reason they are built quality vehicles.


BMW and Mercedes said the same thing about the Audi ten years ago. They don't laugh now when they outsell both in the Luxury arena. Let's not forget that Audi's ex-design chief now runs Kia and he will find ways to build and market the Korean Audi. The only question I have is the time frame. 2017 may be too soon


Kia and Hyundai have improved quite a bit however, they aren't on the same level as MB, Audi, BMW, Lexus yet. Design wise they are a mishmash of elements of lux cars mentioned. They need a distinct original design for starters.
Also I kinda agree with other comments Kia and Hyundai need a separate lux division.VW learned that the hard way in the US market with the Phaeton. It was a great VW that hardly anybody brought. Too much coin for a VW. Put a Audi badge and call it A8, it sells.
Currently my income bracket keeps me in the Non-lux (Ford, Toyota, Honda and Nissan) car buying sphere however if i get a unexpected windfall I highly doubt I'd be spending my wad on a Kia. I don't suspect my feelings will change in 2017.

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