According to the company, the name ‘Kia’ is derived from Sino-Korean words ‘ki’ and ‘a’, which mean ‘to arise’ and ‘Asia’, respectively. Thus, the name means ‘rising out of Asia’.
The company began producing motorcycles in 1957, lorries in 1962 and cars in 1974.
In 1986, the US-based Ford Motor Company bought a stake in the company. Under the partnership, Kia rolled out several vehicles on the ‘Mazda’ platform for domestic as well as international markets. These models include the Ford Pride and Ford Avella, also known as the Ford Festiva and Ford Aspire, respectively, in some countries.
Sensing lucrative opportunities, Kia Motors incorporated their arm in the US under the name Kia Motors America in 1992.
The company went bankrupt in 1997 when their arch-rival, Hyundai Motor Corporation (HMC), stepped in and bought over 51 per cent of the stake. Currently, HMC own less than 40 per cent share in Kia Motors and the Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group stands as the parent company with about 39 per cent share.
It was in 2005 that the company figured out ‘design’ as the core driving factor for future growth. This led to the hiring of famous designer, Peter Schreyer, in 2006. Schreyer created an all-new corporate grille for Kia cars and termed it the ‘Tiger Nose’. The designer was known for his stint with the Volkswagen group. He had designed the Audi TT and had also won the Design Award of the Federal Republic of Germany.
During the Frankfurt Motor Show of 2007 Kia Motors showcased the Kee Concept, which introduced the newly designed corporate grille. The grille was designed to give Kia cars a powerful and recognisable face. The ‘Tiger Nose’ is worn by all Kia cars.
The company currently rolls out over 1.5 million vehicles per annum from 13 facilities spread across eight countries. These vehicles are marketed in 172 countries.
Kia Motors are a major sponsor of Australian Open and an official automotive partner for FIFA. The company follows the punch-line, ‘The Power to Surprise’.