A Little About Kia
“Kia” stands for Korean International Automotive. Kia is headquartered in Seoul.
Kia was founded in 1944, and produced Korea’s first domestic bicycle in 1951. Starting in 1957, the company built Honda-licensed small motorcycles, Mazda-licensed trucks in 1962, and in 1974 began producing cars.
Kia opened its first integrated automotive assembly plant in 1973. The plant remained in operation until 1981, when the government, under a military dictatorship enforced industry consolidation.
At this point, Kia ceased production of passenger cars and focused solely on light trucks. Before this shutdown, cars produced by Kia included the Fiat 132 and the Peugeot 604.
In 1986 Kia entered into a partnership with Ford and began producing cars once again. That year, however, only 26 cars were produced, followed by more than 95,000 in 1987.
At this time, Kia produced several Mazda-derived vehicles, which were sold in South Korea and exported to other countries. These included the Kia Pride, which was based on the Mazda 121, and the Avella, which were sold in North America as the Ford Festiva and the Ford Aspire.
Kia Motors America was incorporated in the United States in 1992. The first vehicles that were branded as Kia were sold from four dealerships in Portland, Oregon in 1994.
Since that time, Kia expanded one region at a time. In 1994, only the Kia Sephia was sold. A few years later, however, Kia added the Sportage to their line. By 1995, over one hundred dealerships existed across thirty states. These dealerships sold a record 24,740 automobiles.
In 1997 Kia declared bankruptcy because of the Asian financial crisis. In 1998, they reached an agreement with Hyundai to diversify by exchanging ownership between both companies. That year Hyundai acquired 51% of the company, outbidding Ford which had owned an interest in Kia since 1986.
Today Hyundai owns about a third of Kia, and is Kia’s largest stakeholder. Kia, however, owns approximately 22 different Hyundai subsidiaries.
In 2010, Kia opened its Georgia plant after it recorded its 15th consecutive year of increased US market share.
In August 2014, Kia drew international attention when Pope Francis rode in a Kia Soul during a 5-day visit to South Korea.
Then, in 2016, J.D. Power and Associates ranked Kia’s reliability as number one, making Kia the first non-luxury automaker to top that list since 1989.