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Kia Motors to complete K-series this year

Carmaker yet to launch K2 compact in Korea despite strong sales in China


The K series of Kia Motors Corp. will likely be completed this year after the automaker unveiled the first model ― the K7 sedan ― in November 2009.

Kia, which launched the K5 sedan in April 2010, is scheduled to fill the K line-up by unveiling the third and fourth models ― the K9 and K3 ― in May and later this year, respectively, according to company executives.

“We plan to launch the K9 on May 2 and the timing of the K3 will be the third or fourth quarter,” a Kia executive said.

While the K9 is aimed at competing with other companies’ luxury premium sedans in sales, the K3 is targeted at young consumers in their 20s and 30s.
The Forte, which may be named the K3 in Korea
The Forte, which may be named the K3 in Korea

The K3, an updated model of the Forte sedan, is expected to closely vie with Hyundai Motor’s Avante to be the nation’s best-selling vehicle.

In the upper segment, Kia’s K5 has been surpassing affiliate Hyundai’s Sonata in popularity in the local market.

Hyundai’s Grandeur also had to yield a certain portion of its market share to Kia’s K7. The coming of the K9 will signal keen competition with Hyundai’s two premium luxury models ― the Genesis and Equus.

Last February, Kia unveiled the exterior design of the K9.

The K9 is the latest product of Kia’s evolving design approach, carrying its signature radiator grille, bold “high-tech luxury car” style LED headlamps and classic design echoes in its voluminous hood.

The bold profile with its simple lines and innovative rear appearance with its high-tech LED combination lamps, chrome decoration and bumper-integrated muffler, aims to create a whole new level of luxury car design.

A company spokesman said the K9 was the automaker’s first rear-wheel drive sedan.

“It boasts our ‘best of the best’ design.”

Aside from the four different segments of the K series, the K2 has been sold in the Chinese market since the compact sedan made its debut during the 2011 Auto Shanghai a year before.

The company did not pick the Seoul Motor Show, which was held in early April 2011, as an unveiling spot, choosing instead the Shanghai show, which was held in late April 2011.

While the K2, an upgraded model of the Pride compact, has been gaining popularity among Chinese consumers, Kia has yet to clarify its stance as to whether it will start sales of the model in Korea.
The K2, which is being sold in China
The K2, which is being sold in China
The K9, which will be unveiled in May
The K9, which will be unveiled in May
Kia spokespeople say nothing has been decided. Market observers predict its local name may be dubbed the K2 like in the Chinese market or the New Rio.

Some motorists say that the K2 in China will be dubbed the K3 in Korea.

Though the K series models were (or will be) dubbed other names, such as the Optima for the K5 and the Cadenza for the K7, in western markets, the “serial number” line-up marked the first of its kind in Korea.

As global cases, BMW produces the 7-series, 5-series and 3-series while Audi has the A8, A6 and A4.

Kia executives forecast the 2012 sales will surpass their initial target of 2.71 million units to reach 2.8 million units in the local and overseas markets.

But the company has been suffering sluggish sales at home like other players including Hyundai, GM Korea, Renault Samsung and Ssangyong Motor.

“Complaints are growing among Korean consumers over monopolistic sales networks of Hyundai and Kia,” an analyst said.

“Further, many of them believe Hyundai and Kia have higher price tags at home, compared to prices of same models sold in the overseas market,” he said.

Kia Motors’ domestic sales during the first quarter fell 7.4 percent from 125,631 units to 116,272 units on a year-on-year basis.

Thanks to growth in exports of 16.6 percent, the company could post a combined growth rate of 11.7 percent in sales at home and abroad.

In addition, Kia’s hybrid cars have yet to gain popularity among domestic consumers.

Kia saw lethargic sales of the fuel-efficient vehicles including the K5 hybrid last year.

Yearly sales of the K5 hybrid stayed at 5,279 units. The figure indicates that its daily sales of the eco-friendly sedan averaged only 14.4 units.

In early April, the company introduced a cheaper model of the K5 hybrid with a price tag of 28.55 million won ($25,000).

The model, dubbed the K5 Hybrid Deluxe, is cheaper by 1.1 million won than the original Hybrid Luxury model.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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