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  • Writer's pictureTim Jackson

Kia leads fastest quality improvements ever

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Kia Motors is a South Korean automobile manufacturer that has grown to become one of the most successful car brands in the world. According to the company, the name "Kia" derives from the Sino-Korean characters to ‘arise' and which stands the 'Asia'; The name Kia is roughly translated as "Rising from East Asia."

Since its start in 1944, Kia has gone through a tumultuous journey that has seen it experience both highs and lows. However, Kia’s ability to adapt to changing market conditions and consumer needs has been instrumental, even key, to its success. Today, Kia is a global brand that produces high-quality and reliable cars that are loved by millions of people worldwide. This chapter will cover the history of Kia Motors, its successes, and the meaningful factors that have contributed to its growth and success.

Kia Motors was founded in December 1944 as Kyungsung Precision Industry, a manufacturer of steel tubing and bicycle parts. The company changed its name to Kia Industries in 1952 and began producing trucks and motorcycles. However, it was not until 1974 that Kia began producing passenger cars, with the launch of the Brisa model. The Brisa was a small, four-door sedan that was powered by a 1.4-liter engine. Although the Brisa was not a commercial success, it marked the beginning of Kia’s journey into the passenger car market.

In the 1980s, Kia began producing cars under license from foreign automakers such as Peugeot and Mazda. This allowed the company to gain valuable experience in car manufacturing and engineering. By the end of the decade, Kia had established itself as a leading car maker in South Korea, with a range of popular models such as the Pride, Sephia and Sportage.

However, the 1990s were a challenging period for Kia. The company faced financial difficulties due to the Asian financial crisis, which hit the region in 1997. As a result, Kia was forced to sell a controlling stake to Hyundai Motor Company in 1998. The acquisition by Hyundai was a turning point for Kia, as it provided the company with the financial resources and expertise needed to compete on a global scale.

Under the ownership of Hyundai, Kia underwent a major transformation. The company invested heavily in research and development, design and marketing, which helped it to improve the quality and reliability of its cars. In 2004, Kia launched the Optima sedan, which was the first car to feature the company’s new design language, “Tiger Nose.” The bold and distinctive design of the Optima was a departure from the bland and uninspiring designs of Kia’s earlier models and helped to establish the brand as a serious player in the global car market.

Kia’s success continued in the 2010s, with the company launching a range of new models that were well-received by consumers and critics alike. In 2011, Kia unveiled the Rio hatchback, which was praised for its stylish design, fuel efficiency and affordability. The same year, the company launched the Optima Hybrid, which was the first hybrid car, along with Hyundai Sonata, to be produced by a Korean automaker. The Optima Hybrid was a significant achievement for Kia, as it demonstrated the company’s commitment to developing eco-friendly cars.

In 2014, Kia launched the Soul EV, which was the company’s first all-electric car. The Soul EV was a game-changer for Kia, as it demonstrated the company’s ability to produce electric cars that were practical, affordable and fun to drive. The Soul EV was praised for its range, which was among the best in its class, and its stylish and practical design.

Today, Kia is a global brand that produces a wide range of cars, from small hatchbacks to luxury sedans and SUVs. The company has a strong presence in markets such as the United States, Europe and China, and is known for producing high-quality and reliable cars that offer excellent value for money. Kia’s success can be attributed to a number of factors, including its focus on design, innovation and customer satisfaction.

One of the key factors that has contributed to Kia’s success is its focus on design. In recent years, Kia has become known for producing cars that are stylish, distinctive and visually appealing. The company’s design language, “Tiger Nose,” has become a hallmark of Kia’s cars, and is instantly recognizable to car aficionados and enthusiasts around the world. Kia’s commitment to design has helped it to stand out in a crowded market and has contributed to its success in attracting younger, more style-conscious consumers.

Another factor that has contributed to Kia’s success is its focus on innovation. Kia has invested heavily in research and development and has been at the forefront of developing new technologies such as hybrid and electric cars. The company’s commitment to innovation has helped it to stay ahead of the curve and to anticipate changing consumer needs and preferences.

Kia’s success can be attributed to its focus on customer satisfaction. Kia has a reputation for producing cars that are reliable, affordable, and easy to maintain. The company has also invested heavily in customer service, with a range of programs and initiatives designed to enhance the ownership experience for Kia customers. This focus on customer satisfaction has helped Kia to build a loyal customer base and to establish itself as a trusted and respected brand in the global car market.

In 2022, Kia won among the most JD Power Automotive Awards, including those for quality, performance and reliability. New car dealers with the Kia franchise have done very well with it over past two to three years. It’s a far cry different than a few years ago, when I remember a Kia dealer who was unhappy with the quality of Kia brand cars and frequently called them ‘shitboxes.’ Its amazing how fast a car brand can move from being an also ran to one of the most coveted franchises to represent in the new car market. Kia is a Cinderella story when it comes to quality, value, reputation and brand image. Every new car brand should be so fortunate.

Moving into 2023, Kia has made a mark on electrification when it comes to its brand line of distinctive cars. Aside from the Soul EV, Kia has done very well with a high volume of Niro models (pure EV, hybrid and gasoline-powered versions), as well as a stylish new Kia EV6 which sports among the highest ranges in the industry and offers the fastest charging curve of any modern BEV in the market. Both the Niro EV and the Kia EV6 are solid, reliable cars for the newish electric car market. I’ve owned one of each, and I’m currently with the EV6. It is one my favorite cars of all time.

Kia Motors is a South Korean car maker that has experienced significant success in recent years.

The company’s success can be attributed to its focus on design, innovation, and customer satisfaction, and it is likely that Kia will continue to grow and thrive in the years to come.


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