A lesson to learn: Bicycle producer KIA turns global automobile manufacturer


KARACHI: Kia Motors, South Korea’s oldest and second largest automobile manufacturer, was originally the bicycle producer, which over the years turned into global force in automobile industry, the company’s officials told journalists from various Asian countries including Pakistan during a visit to South Korea from 3-8th September as part of ‘Asia Journalists Cultural Forum’.

The AJA Cultural Forum was held in Gwangju city to highlight Asian Cultural Complex being built by South Korean government. The group of journalists was taken to KIA Motors Gwangju plant. They were shown the different stages of automobile production in the factory and informed about the history of KIA and its origin.

The interesting thing was the name ‘KIA’ itself. The word ‘KIA’ comes from Chinese characters ‘Ki’ that means ‘to emerge or come out of’ and ‘A’ refers to Asia. KIA means ‘emerging out of Asia’.

Since its inception in 1944, KIA Motors has evolved tremendously. It started out by making bicycle parts and steel tubing and went on to build complete bicycles in 1951. In 1952, KIA Motors, originally called ‘KyunSung Precision Industry’, changed its name to KIA Motors which turned into a global force in automobile industry. Since then, KIA started manufacturing motorcycles, trucks and cars.

It established its first integrated automotive assembly plant ‘The Sohari Plant’ in 1973. In 1986, KIA joined in partnership with Ford. Out of the partnership came some Mazda-derived automobiles such as Kia Pride and Avella. All the while, the sales continued to grow, gradually.

1992 became a year of growth for KIA Motors that grew its base in USA establishing Kia Motors America. Kia Sephia and Sportage were launched. By 1995, Kia expanded into thirty US states. In 1998, Hyundai Motor Company (South Korea’s largest automobile manufacturer) acquired 51% of the shares of the company. Currently, Hyundai owns 30-35% of KIA Motors. In the same year, Dewan Farooque Motors Limited, a Pakistani automobiles manufacturer, came under license to Hyundai Motor Company and KIA Motors, further growing and benefiting all parties.

What specifically caught the attention of delegates was the design aspect of the cars. Credit to Peter Schreyer, who has been the Chief Design Officer since 2006, KIA automobiles have a distinct look, now uniquely associated with them.

With Mr. Sam-Ung Lee as CEO and President and Peter Schreyer as Chief Design Officer, KIA Motors stands as a huge global automobile manufacturer focusing on ‘design’ as their strength. Kia has expanded in different regions of the world including US and Europe. Being a major sponsor of Australian Open and an official automotive partner of FIFA has also helped Kia Motors grow.

With a network of dealers and distributers in over 170 countries and over 40,000 employees, Kia produces over 1.5 million vehicles annually. It is growing now more than ever and has stood up to what the name ‘Kia’ and logo symbolizes: A global player (the oval shape in the logo representing the earth) emerging out of Asia.

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