The Key to Kia’s Design Future
Last year, Kia scooped up Volkswagen AG designer Peter Schreyer and opened a European design studio in Frankfurt. Schreyer, during his tenure at Audi and at VW, is credited with the first TT concept, Audi A6, and VW Concept R. With credentials like these, Kia expects Schreyer to liven up their design. In a market filled with many competitive entries and lots of noise, Kia cannot afford bland design.
At the 2007 Frankfurt auto show
, Kia showed off one the first efforts to be led by Schreyer, a two-plus-two sports coupe called Kee; the concept is touring upcoming auto shows as well, and this tour will include at least one appearance on the U.S. circuit. Kee’s name was inspired by both the idea that it is key to the brand’s design future and by the Chinese and Korean “cultural concept” for spiritual energy or life force. They’d have been better off spelling it Key or K; while the pronunciation of Kee is pretty obvious and the inspiration strong, it looks odd and contrived.
Kia Motors America showed the Kue concept Crossover SUV at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. An interesting exercise, it opens the discussion about Kia’s sporting pretentions in the USA market. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific staffers were on hand at Detroit to evaluate the Kue and its potential for success. In a word… success as a 2-door – NOT!
Kia “Sporty” Sibling to Mainstream Hyundai Motor America
No there haven’t been to many Kias parked within the flags at the local enthusiast car shows.
In terms of Asian imports maybe Mazda Miatas, Subaru WRXs, Mitsubishi EVOs, Nissan Zs, and Toyota Supras; but no Kias. Being Hyundai’s ‘sporty sibling’ we might be able to follow the train of thought into believing that there may be a following for a supercharged V8 infused with passion and earmarked for that coveted space in the garage. That time may very well come; but we’re not there yet.
Kia’s Lineup Expands for 2009
Kia’s display concept at the 2007 North American International Auto Show was a concept called the Kue, but their announcement about last year’s concept is bigger news. At the 2006 North American International Auto Show, Kia showed a four-door SUV called Soul. This year, Kia announced that the Soul will be built in Korea and imported for U.S. sales. No specifics were given, other than the plan to have it in dealers sometime during 2008 (2009 model year).
Does Kia have room for three SUVs? It may seem illogical to need SUVs on top of SUVs, but Soul could be to the Sportage what Ford’s Edge is to their Escape. With more SUV look than substance, this entry could have the cargo/people hauling advantages of a box but reduce the fuel-cost disadvantage.
Many of the concept’s more outrageous elements, like the fold-out laptop computer, aren’t likely for production, but a 2.0L four-cylinder engine and a front-drive-base are good bets, as is optional AWD. Bluetooth, advanced ambient lighting, power liftgate, and an advanced audio system with auxiliary inputs are some features that might make the transition. Cost is a bigger deterrent for those features than technology or engineering. Kia claimed the concept Soul’s rear-hinged second door setup met safety standards, but we’re skeptical about the likelihood of anything but traditional, forward-hinged doors in real life. (For more about concept Soul’s features and images, click to our 2006 concept report here
IIHS released the results of its 2007 Safety Pick Awards on November 20. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific feel that these results are important to communicate to our readers. Along with other awards for quality, satisfaction and performance, safety awards can and should be among the information sources a buyer uses when deciding which new vehicle to buy. After all, the Internet gives us almost perfect information.
While we do appreciate the safety value of electronic stability control, it will take years for the entire fleet to be equipped with ESC. For IIHS to eliminate all vehicles lacking ESC eliminates many otherwise safe vehicles from their analysis. This is too simplistic an approach.
2007 TOP SAFETY PICK award winners: award criteria are tougher; SUVs eligible for first time
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announces 13 vehicles that earn TOP SAFETY PICK awards for 2007. Winners include 4 cars, 7 SUVs, and 2 minivans. This award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute tests. Winners also have to be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC).
Audi A6 manufactured in Dec. 2006 and later
Subaru Legacy equipped with optional electronic stability control
Mercedes M class
Subaru B9 Tribeca
Subaru Forester equipped with optional electronic stability control
INTELLICHOICE.COM AND AUTOPACIFIC TEAM UP TO ANNOUNCE FIRST ANNUAL MOTORIST’S CHOICE AWARDS
– Awards Recognize Vehicles with Highest Driver Satisfaction and Lowest Cost of Ownership –
– Infiniti QX56 Wins Highest Rating Among All Classes/Vehicle Models –
AutoPacific, the industry source for automotive owner satisfaction ratings and IntelliChoice.com, the online source for automotive ownership cost and value analysis, today announced the results of the newly established Motorist’s Choice Awards for the 2006 vehicle model year.
IntelliChoice.com and AutoPacific created the Motorist’s Choice Awards to determine the vehicles that delivered both the highest satisfaction and lowest cost of ownership. The collaboration between the two respected firms, who have each been authorities on the U.S. car market for the last 20 years, takes selected owner satisfaction data from AutoPacific’s surveys of new car and light truck buyers and combines it with IntelliChoice.com’s rating methodology to create a new measurement that speaks to both the hearts and minds of car buyers.
“While the economic analysis of car ownership remains very important—it can save or cost you thousands of dollars over the life of the vehicle—it is also important to recognize owner satisfaction as another significant influencer in vehicle purchases,” said James Bell, publisher of IntelliChoice.com. “These are the two key benchmarks we think car buyers should be most attuned to.”
“Ratings of owners’ satisfaction with their new car and truck illustrates how well the vehicle is satisfying the emotional and practical needs of the driver. Satisfaction is more than simply how well a product is screwed together and there are many more dimensions to the equation. Combining AutoPacific’s satisfaction results with the value analysis from IntelliChoice provides the car buyer with an outstanding benchmark to use when selecting a new vehicle,” said George Peterson, President of AutoPacific.
For the inaugural awards, IntelliChoice.com and AutoPacific identified 29 winning models by segment and class. The top-ranked vehicles in their respective categories are:
o Cars: Lexus LS430
o Trucks: Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 (2WD)
o SUV/Crossover: Infiniti QX56
o Minivans/Wagons: Audi A6 4.2 Quattro
In terms of overall rankings, the Infiniti QX56 SUV scored highest in both driver satisfaction and lowest cost of ownership, followed closely by the Lexus LS430 sedan.
This is what we do. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice contuously monitor the American and worldwide auto industry for issues that impact VehicleVoice panel members. The simple fact that Asian manufacturers are adding capacity or delaying capacity additions in North America are major issues.
Kia Puts 300,000 Unit Plant in Georgia on Hold
In early March 2006, Kia announced that they were going to build an all-new greenfield assembly plant in Western Georgia. This 300,000 unit, $1.2 billion plant likely would have provided Kia with the NAFTA capacity to build an all new pickup truck. This plant, along with Toyota adding capacity at the newly available Subaru indiana Automotive plant (to build the Toyota Camry) put more pressure on the Big Three.
Pressure is temporarily off given Kia’s April 27 decision to indefinitely defer building the plant in Georgia and an additional plant in Eastern Europe in Slovakia. This is a total of $2.4 billion in new plant construction put on hold. The suspension was due to the management crisis Hyundai-Kia is facing in Korea with its Chairman Chung Mong Koo having been put in the slammer (Seoul Decention Center) on charges of embezzlement and breach of trust. Chairman Chung has been closely involved in all decisions concerning Hyundai and Kia plans – worldwide and in the USA.
Honda Decision for a New Plant Replaces Kia Threat
While Kia backed off in late April, Honda announced on May 17 it is building a new 200,000 unit assembly plant in North America. Honda, a master at flexible assembly and super-efficient plants, will have capacity for about 1.6 million units in North America when the new plant is on line in 2008. At present, the site for the new plant has not been announced.
Kia Likely Will Be Back Soon
We also have to believe that the deferral of the Kia assembly plant is only temporary. Kia’s pickup truck concept has been favorably received at auto shows and clearly could have a place in the USA market – but Kia needs a NAFTA source to avoid the 25% “chicken tax” on imported pickup trucks. Once the smoke clears from the scandal surrounding Chairman Chung the go code will likely be given again.
Pressure on Big Three Continues Unabated
It does not matter if the pressure is coming from Japan-based competitors or Korea-based competitors, the challenges to the American auto makes continues to increase. Saddled with older facilities, aging workforces, UAW contracts and work rules, the American manufacturers continue to be battered by the new, non-union plants from Asian manufacturers on their home soil. There are also vibrations from Europe that possibly a Peugeot, Audi or Volkswagen plant could be in the offing.
Updates Just in Time
Sorento Trying to Maintain or Improve Position in Viciously Competitive SUV Segment
At the 2006 New York auto show, Kia used its commercial spokesman to help introduce an updated version of the Sorento and remind us all of our SUV rights; AutoPacific and VehicleVoice correspondents were on hand to see the show. Though the exterior changes are subtle, the Sorento due in showrooms in late summer 2006 gets the power and interior updates it will need to remain competitive against a crop of new entries.
Sorento competes in the Standard Mid-Size SUV segment wnere its most direct competitors are the Nissan Xterra
and the new-for-2007MY Dodge Nitro
. Xterra and Nitro offer truck-based platforms and are standard in rear-wheel-drive form rather than front-wheel drive. The Sorento, Xterra, and Nitro are cross-shopped against car-based entries as well, including the recently launched Toyota RAV4
and new-for-2007MY Suzuki
XL7 and Ford Edge
. (The XL7 was introduced at the New York show, too; click here
to see our comments on that model.) Hyundai’s Santa Fe
is also all new for 2007, though it doesn’t use the same platform or engines.
All in all, this is a model year with lots of either new or relatively fresh product in the Standard Mid-Size SUV segment (as defined by AutoPacific), making it an exciting time to choose among them. More horsepower is available, much of it without sacrificing fuel economy as dramatically as before, and many entries are larger.
AutoPacific has said since its launch that the Sorento is a nicely done package offered at a nice price, a view also supported by real-world responses to the company’s annual survey of new owners. Customers liked Sorento much that it won AutoPacific’s coveted Vehicle Satisfaction Award
in its first year. But with the 2007 model year, many Standard Mid-Size SUV entries include standard or optional V6 powerplants delivering 250HP or more. Sorento’s previous 192HP 3.5L V6 would have left Kia at a power disadvantage, for which price may not have been able to compensate.
While exterior changes are just enough to let you know there is something different about this year, the Sorento’s interior updates bring nicer wood and metal interior trim materials, the revised center stack and instrument panel gauges give the Sorento a more refined, less clumsy look and atmosphere.
Editor’s NOTE: The Multi-S was launched as the Kia Rondo late in 2006.
Small Minivan Explores Reaction at Best-Attended U.S. Auto Show
As the Chicago Auto Show has a reputation for having the highest attendance figures of all U.S. auto shows, what better place to test a possible new people mover? While this concept was first shown last September on Kia‘s stand at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show, Chicago marked its first North American appearance. AutoPacific and VehicleVoice contributors were on hand at both showings, and can promise that there were no real changes between Frankfurt and Chicago, aside from Kia showing a gasoline engine in the States and a diesel in Frankfurt.
In Korea and Europe, where North American minivans are too large and the exception rather than the rule for family transportation, Kia sells a minivan smaller than the Sedona. The second-generation of this vehicle is being developed under the codename UN, and it is expected to join the U.S. lineup before the end of 2006. While the final verdict on the Kia’s U.S. nomenclature is not in, Multi-S is reportedly in the running.
The UN will be a more modern and fully featured than the example currently sold in international markets, making it more competitive in Europe as well as giving it a chance in the States. The concept dimensions indicate a vehicle slightly bigger than the Mazda5 and that the U.S. version is likely to get a four-cylinder gasoline engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.
Kia Motors America Vice President of Marketing Ian Beavis characterized Multi-S competition as “drawing from station wagons, vehicles like the Mazda5 and even small SUVs. The Multi-S did pretty well against the new Toyota RAV4 in research.”