A brief history of Kia Motors
Kia Motors is South Korea’s second-largest automobile manufacturing company. With sales over four million vehicles, their dominion in the automotive market ranks right next to the Hyundai motor company, which also owns a third of the former’s total market stakes. Headquartered in Seoul, Kia was founded in the year 1944, under the name “Kyungsung Precision Industry”. They started as manufacturers of steel-tubes and bicycle-parts, which led them to become the first in-house bicycle production company in Korea.
By 1957, Kyungsung had refashioned themselves as Kia Industries and grown to build light-engine motorcycles for Honda. Over the next two decades, they made a name for themselves in the automobile assembly, having produced trucks and cars for Mazda. Their first-ever automobile assembly plant began with the production of a ‘Mazda Familia’ based small vehicle called the “Brisa”, which they eventually rebuilt into beautifully-derived pickup-truck, but that’s something for later.
A decision enforced by the prevalent dictator led Kia to suspend production of all automobiles except light-weight trucks, for military use and in the year 1981, the company shut down. They reopened five years later and rejoined the industry where they had left off.
By 1992, Kia had set up in the United States. It did exceptionally well over the next three years, post which, the Asian financial crisis nearly killed the company before being half-acquired by the Hyundai motor company. From 2005, Kia focused on the European and American markets, building on its design portfolio and producing cars with a brand identity.
Thereon, it has been a steady climb for the company’s share in the United States’ automobile market, and it has received numerous international acknowledgements for its global market presence.
Kia’s debut in India
July 2019 saw Kia motors take its first-ever step into the Indian market with the launch of their mid-sized SUV Seltos. Their first production facility in the country has been established at the Anantpur district in Andhra Pradesh and boasts an annual production rate of three lakh units.
Kookhyun Shim has been appointed as the head of their operations in India and will be taking care of market expansion. The company has planned to invest over a billion US dollars in their Indian operations, building over two hundred and fifty “touch-points” which would serve as authorised sales, service and spare-part stores.
The company has a long line-up of offerings across the entire diversity of automobile segments ranging from hatchbacks, compact and luxury sedans to MPVs and SUVs. Their list includes cars like the Kia Cadenza hatchback and sedan, the Kia Cerato hatchback, the Optima hatchback and sedan, the Rio hatchback, the K9 luxury sedan, the Quoris Sedan, the Stinger sport-sedan, the Sedona MPV, the Stonic crossover, the Seltos SUV, the Sorento SUV, the Sportage large SUV, the Telluride SUV and the Soul EV.
Kia Sonet sub’4-metre’ compact SUV
Recently, it has been discovered that the company has registered a new name “Sonet” for one of their upcoming vehicles, in the International market. From their nomenclature, one can understand that all the vehicles in their line-up starting with the letter S are SUVs. Coming to the point of this derivative line of thought, one can safely assume that the upcoming car might be their compact SUV, which is to make its debut at the 2020 Auto Expo this February. The car is expected to be based on the same platform as the Hyundai Venue, befitting the segment that it aims to tackle, and thrive in. It will also borrow the powertrain from one or two of the Venue’s variants for its own.
Possible powertrain options include a 1.2-litre fuel-injected four-cylinder petrol engine that produces eighty-three PS with a five-speed manual transmission with a 1-litre T-GDI three-cylinder petrol that produces a hundred and twenty PS with the option of either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission, all driving only the front wheels.
The diesel variant includes a 1.4 litre CRDi four-cylinder oil burner producing 90 PS of power while being mated to a six-speed manual transmission, also driving only the front two wheels.
The exterior is expected to feature LED headlamps and tail-lamps, heated mirrors, seventeen-inch alloy wheels and an electric-powered sunroof. The dashboard will sport a touch-screen infotainment system which is eight to ten inches diagonally. It will feature a satellite-navigation system, Apple car play, Android auto, connected vehicle interface, temperature controlled seats, wireless charging, and blower vents for the rear passengers.
The production of the said SUV is expected to be set up at the fore-mentioned Anantpur plant in the country. It will possibly be the only facility to manufacture this particular model, making India the very first market to welcome Kia’s latest offering. Official launch dates are not yet confirmed, though after the Auto Expo reveal, the Sonet won’t take more than a few months to hit the shelves.
If all goes well, the Sonet’s production might just lay the groundwork for Kia’s first EV in India being locally produced.