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In the auto business, 2011 proved to be the year of the Koreans; both Hyundai and affiliate Kia sold a record number of vehicles, while their shares outperformed those of other automakers, including the likes of heavyweights such as General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen.
That said, some of the sales in new vehicles from the Koreans actually cannibalized others within their ranks, notably the Kia Optima (K5 in South Korea), which after its latest redesign saw orders triple, though some of that came at the expense of Hyundai’s Sonata, which only saw demand increase by some 5.2 percent in the same period.
There’s every chance the same thing could happen again with Kia planning to launch the more upmarket K9, designed to go after the same customers as the Hyundai’s Genesis and Equus.
Frank Ahrens, a spokesman for Hyundai said the car-to-car rivalry between the two brands extends to all segments. Further complicating matters is the fact that although Hyundai and Kia are overseen by the same chairman (Chung Mong Koo) and share a development center, they are run as two separate companies and arch rivals at that.
There’s no question that Hyundai’s original 51 percent purchase of Kia Motors back in 1998 rejuvenated the brand and helped it grow into a purveyor of world-class vehicles with competitive prices. All the same, the companies need to sort out their differences now more than ever because it seems global competition is going to intensify in 2012 especially with Honda and Toyota returning to pre-disaster capacity.
This will likely mean Hyundai and Kia will need to develop a successful alignment strategy for their respective product lines, for example: focusing one brand on premium products and the other on volume sales. In doing so, they stand a greater chance of stealing sales from Japanese, American and European rivals instead of each other.
It seems that signs of greater product differentiation between Hyundai and Kia’s offerings are afoot; Kia’s European COO, Paul Philpott, said during a recent interview that “Hyundai will become the mainstream brand with Kia [functioning as] the sportier, dynamic little brother.”
In terms of prime time viewing, it often doesn’t get any better than during the Super Bowl. As a result companies want to make every second of air time count during the commercial breaks, often leading to some of the most inventive ads of all time.
This year, Kia Motors is pulling out all the stops, thanks to a commercial which Michale Sprague, head of Kia’s US marketing and communications calls “the ultimate man’s dream.” It’s all part of a plan for Kia to boost its image into a more upscale, edgier brand.
Essentially, the ad incorporates a Kia Optima tearing around a race track, while scantily clad supermodel Adriana Lima and mixed-martial arts fighter Chuck Liddell do what they do best, as Mötley Crüe rock on stage, performing Kickstart My Heart.
The 60-second commercial will first be seen in movie theaters beginning on February 3, while 15-second teaser ads will also air beforehand. In an attempt to maximize the ad’s potential Kia will also leverage both the Twitter and Facebook followings of the stars featured in the commercial.
[Source: USA Today]
With the Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto just around the corner, the finalists for Canadian Car and Utility Vehicle of the Year (the winners of which will be announced during the opening ceremonies of the show on February 16) have been announced.
For the car category, the three finalists are the Hyundai Accent, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Optima (shown above), while in the utility category, they are the BMW X3, Dodge Journey and Volkswagen Touareg TDI Clean Diesel.
Each of these vehicles won their respective categories during the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s annual Test Fest, which takes place each Fall in Niagra-on-the-Lake, Ontario. This time out, some 170 vehicles in 11 different categories were evaluated by 70 auto journalists from across Canada, with the CCOTY finalists selected following four days of back-to-back testing on the street, test track and off-road course.
Besides car and utility of the year, AJAC also awards another category at the CIAS, Best New Design. For that one, this year’s three finalists are the Hyundai Veloster, Jaguar XKR-S and Range Rover Evoque.
10. Chevrolet Spark
Just a few years ago picking a Top 10 Cars list from the LA Auto Show would have been a simple task, with few world premieres and most of the vehicles on display having already been revealed at some overseas venue. That’s no longer the case, with over 20 global debuts this year. So with a sizable list to choose from, the AutoGuide team sat down at the end of the two media days of press conferences to determine the most exciting, most interesting and most important reveals of the show. And here they are:
From the Fiat 500 to the Smart fortwo and Scion iQ, the mini car segment continues to grow in North America. Not wanting to pass this segment by, Chevrolet has entered the fray with a tiny car of its own, the Spark. Sized down from even the new Sonic sub-compact it still has a livable amount of space and comes powered by an ultra-small 1.2-liter 4-cylinder engine making just 85-hp. Thankfully it weighs just 2,300 lbs, so acceleration, shouldn’t be terrible.
Notable features on this car include a standard 7-inch screen with Chevy’s new MyLink system and Bluetooth. Plus, power windows, air conditioning and 10 airbags come standard.
GALLERY: Chevrolet Spark
For a long time, the only brand with a poorer reputation than Hyundai was Kia. Despite being a subsidiary of Hyundai, Kia‘s vehicles were often a grade lower in quality, using decade-old Mazda engineering and projecting an image of cheap vehicles for those with poor credit (or poor taste).
Now, Kia is on a roll, with sharp designs and technology borrowed from Hyundai, which has become a segment leader in many respects. Kia’s Optima sedan is outselling the Hyundai Sonata in their home market of South Korea, something few would have predicted even a year ago.
Executives at Hyundai fear that sales cannibalization will occur if action isn’t taken to differentiate the brands. Hyundai is said to become the more premium, upscale brand while Kia will take on a sportier image. In the United States, the company’s lineups have a lot of overlap, but in the rest of the world, more differentiation exists, and Kia and Hyundai have established dominant positions in different reasons.
Kia has just announced at the LA Auto Show that they’ve teamed up with Kinetic Motorsports to campaign a pair of Optima SXs in World Challenge. The pair of race cars will join the Rio 5-Door B-Spec that debuted at the SEMA Show earlier this month as part of Kia’s racing efforts with Kinetic Motorsports.
The turbocharged Optima race cars are set to enter the Pirelli World Challenge Championship and will compete in the Grand Touring Sport (GTS) class. Interestingly enough, the Optimas will be the first Korean vehicles to compete in the series and it’ll be interesting to see if Hyundai follows suit sometime soon.
Drivers for the two vehicles were not announced, but Kia did reassure us that Kinetic Motorsports will continue the successful Forte Koup’s racing efforts in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.
GALLERY: Kia Racing World Challenge GTS Optima SX
GALLERY: Kia Racing World Challenge GTS Optima SX LA Auto Show Debut
Kia is hoping to reach the 500,000 unit milestone and add 40 new dealers by 2012, as the Korean automaker enjoys increasing success in the U.S. market.
Kia Vice Chairman Hank Lee said that Kia is on pace to sell 470,000 vehicles in 2011, up from 356,258 in 2010. Lee also said that in addition to adding new dealers, stores that failed to meet Kia’s expectations would be terminated. Lee also stated that Kia is focusing on 20 key markets in the United States, but declined to elaborate on what they were. Kia’s Optima mid-size sedan has won critical acclaim, but failed to sell in significant volumes.
[Source: Automotive News]
Kia is forging ahead with plans to build a rival to the Volkswagen Golf GTI, complete with a turbocharged engine and class-leading driving dynamics.
The new car will be part of Kia’s effort to differentiate itself from Hyundai by focusing on performance and excitement. The GTI rival will likely be based on the well-received Cee’d, which is sold in Europe and other markets. Power will come from the Optima Turbo’s 2.0L 4-cylinder, although the engine could be detuned from the 274 horsepower it currently makes to around 230 horsepower.
Kia also confirmed that their new convertible will hit production in 2014, but that it will be based on the Soul, and thus front-wheel drive, rather than a rear-drive rival to the Mazda MX-5.
With the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid delayed due to a change to the pedestrian warning system, the Kia Optima Hybrid will face similar delays, with units expected to arrive at dealers sometime in the summer, a full 5 months later than planned.
The Optima Hybrid, being mechanically identical to the Sonata Hybrid, must also undergo the removal of a switch to disable the pedestrian warning system, which emits a sound to alert bystanders that the vehicle is running while the silent electric motor is online. Hyundai also wants the Sonata Hybrid to debut first, and with supplies trickling to dealers at a very slow rate, the Optima Hybrid must wait on the sidelines until the Sonata has made its presence known.
[Source: Wards Auto]
After advertising during the Super Bowl for the first time ever last year, Kia is back with a new spot to promote its all-new Optima sedan.
Kia’s ‘Epic Ride’ add will be followed by an Epic Contest, using ads and social media to give participants the change to win one of five Optimas.
To get involved visit www.oneepiccontest.com.
Watch the ad after the jump and read AutoGuide’s 2011 Kia Optima Review here:
Kia took the wraps off their Optima Hybrid at the Los Angeles Auto Show today, and no surprise here, it’s exactly the same as it’s corporate sibling, the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.
Fortunately for the Optima, this gives the car a huge leg-up. Our review of the Sonata Hybrid was quite positive, and we expect the slightly sportier Optima Hybrid to be even better.
The same 206 horsepower 4-cylinder hybrid motor and 6-speed automatic will be standard on the Optima, which will also use the Sonata’s innovative lithium-polymer battery pack. One interesting detail that separates the two is the more discreet styling of the Optima Hybrid, while the equivalent Sonata is substantially different looking compared to its gasoline counterparts.
Pricing hasn’t been announced, but expect it to come within a few hundred dollars of the Sonata.
While attending the launch of the 2011 Kia Optima, AutoGuide has just learned that Kia is planning to launch an Optima Hybrid, based on the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. The new model will make its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, with sales beginning in early 2011.
Kia Motors America CEO and group president Byung Mo Ahn revealed the existence of the Optima Hybrid at the 2011 Optima’s launch in Southern California. The Hybrid will join the 2.4L and 2.0T four-cylinder engines in the lineup.
The Optima Hybrid should match the Sonata Hybrid’s figures of 37 mpg in the city and 39 mpg highway. Power will likely come from a 2.4L four-cylinder engine making 209 horsepower and 195 ft-lbs of torque, with electric driving speeds of up to 62 mph.
AutoGuide’s LA Auto Show coverage starts November 17th. Until then, check out our LA Auto Show Preview here.
Get more Kia Optima news and info at OptimaForums.com
Kia is looking to add a little extra panache to its image by dropping the current list of model names in favor of alphanumeric designations. According Chung Eui-sun, to Vice Chairman to Hyundai Motor Co., which owns Kia, the Korean automaker is looking to make the switch in North America. Currently, Kia uses short alphanumeric badges for many of its models in its home-market of South Korean and in other markets throughout the world. For instance, the new Optima sedan, unveiled at the New York Auto Show, is badged as the K5 in Korea. This switch might also result in the Forte changing its name to the K3.
Numerous other models would, however, retain their traditional names, including the Forte Koup, Soul and Sportage. Those models share the same names in Korea.
The decision isn’t final, however, and Kia is worried that an expanded product portfolio, combined with alphanumeric designations, could make for confused consumers. We have to agree.
Nobody could ever accuse the previous generation Kia Optima of being interesting or fun cars. But that looks set to change when the new model debuts with bold new styling and a 274-horsepower 2.0 four-cylinder turbo engine.
While previous pictures of the Optima have only been taken in studios with favorable lighting and re-touching, these candid shots of the car in a parking lot still look great, especially in black. Cues from Kia’s new design language and present throughout, and the car has a very sharp, Audi-like quality to the exterior. The interior, unfortunately, does not look at good, but recent Korean offerings have been on par with other Japanese offerings, and to match the superlative German interiors would require Kia to negate the significant savings their cars offer over the competition.
The Optima will go on sale towards the end of 2010, and while pricing hasn’t been announced, expect it to undercut its rivals, including the Sonata, by a fair margin.
[Source: Motor Trend]