Detroit 2014: Discussing The Kia GT4 Stinger With Its Designer

Patrick M Hoey

Automobile Magazine's design editor, Robert Cumberford, met up with Thomas Kearns, chief designer of Kia's American design center, to discuss the new Kia GT4 Stinger concept car, which debuted at the 2014 Detroit auto show.

Robert Cumberford: This concept looks a lot like the 2005 Volkswagen EcoRacer, down to the color. Same roof treatment. Same headlight treatment. You didn’t see this? You made a Korean copy without knowing what you were copying?

Thomas Kearns: I wouldn’t call it a Korean copy.

RC: Where was it done?

TK: It was done in our California studio.

RC: I repeat what I said yesterday: nice car.

TK: Thank you. We started with a great platform and proportions. It’s got a great wheelbase, a low hood. It’s got a short overhangs. So my brief to the design team was…keep it simple. Sort of a less is more instead of a more is more approach.

RC: I like the see-through A-pillar. We saw the same idea years ago with the Volvo Safety Concept, but this is better executed. And it’s really important, with A-pillars getting so thick…

TK: …And not because designers want them that way but because safety requirements, airbags, and this and that. They’ve gotten bigger and bigger. If we can work with engineering to solve that problem, it would be very helpful to the customer.

Another thing you might not recognize instantly on the car is some subtle detail. You see this stepped carbon fiber pattern that’s sort of repeated throughout the car. even the front grille. And then if you walk around the rear of the car.

[Walks to back of car] Again, very clean very simple.

RC: Can you bend glass to do that?

TK: In production, I’m not sure. You could certainly put a cutline. Or you could do it in plastic or put a spoiler there.

RC: Well, one of the things I like about the car is there is no spoiler. It’s excess on many cars. Why does the fender dip?

TK: We actually had it modeled straight across. It just seemed a little static. We just wanted to give it a little accent. It’s kind of a Kia shape—our signature grille has that shape.

I mentioned the shapes on the exterior over the wheels. We picked up on that in the instrument panel to get the interior and exterior coming together. And then also that repeating step pattern around the center stack and the vents, and even in the backs of the seat. Some of the sheet metal we left painted on the inside.

RC: Can I sit inside?

TK: Yes.

RC: When I started in the business, it was considered chic to have a thin steering-wheel rim. This is too thick. The thicker one is better, but a number of people have overdone it. The worst was a couple of years ago—the 2007 Ford Interceptor sedan concept.

TK: I have a couple of classic cars with the thin rims. There’s something to be said for it. Maybe because the steering’s so light as well, it kind of goes together. It feels nice.

RC: People haven’t changed a great deal, and hands work well with certain things. I was interested in the visibility. It’s quite good. It’s a safety plus. I assume you could even make the pillar as a steel forging. Is that something that could make production?

TK: I would like it to. To be honest, it’s a concept and we haven’t gotten into the nuts and bolts of actually trying to make it work for production, but I think it’s a problem that needs to be solved.

RC: You’re right. I hope management works up its nerve to build something like this. It would be good for the company and it would be nice on the market.

TK: When we designed it we always have the intention [of production] in the hope that if management gives something the green light, we can get to production without huge [changes]. We try to have a little restraint and not do something that’s too pie in the sky so that if it is greenlighted we can get there, maybe 95 percent [of what the concept is].

RC: Did Peter Schreyer come to see you during the process?

TK: Yes, he came one time and I see him every month in Korea.

RC: That’s tough. You have to go twelve times a year to Korea?

TK: This time I didn’t have to go November or December so I think I only went ten times [laughs]. I think I’m close to one hundred stamps on my passport to Korea.

Andre Phillips
Yeah... the KIA actually looks better!
Francis Goodwin
wow nice...
Khadija Lateef
They're both revolting to look at
Aashit Yadhuvanshi
its a grt design i think dre is lack of dhese typs of concepts cars in india :(
Lewis deSoto
Classical cars.Aj
Youcef Azzouz
ex name:Bluesport , same design ... KIA do great job ,but this concept i think should change **
William Lee
Really? This is a clone. I don't care if the same guy designed both cars and simply recycled the design. Designers are supposed to design not regurgitate. Just like the Kia Cadenza looks amazingly similar to the Audi A6. Original thought is becoming a lost art.
Jay Skullangel Michael
It's not like it matters anyways. It's VW's fault for not cashing in while they could have. Now KIA can make bank.
Christ Shaskos
Kia looks better than the VW. Just the color.
Gerd Kalesse
This comparison was my very first thought when I saw the Kia
George Dimitrov
I wrote an article two years ago that was titled "THE SCHREYER LINE". And noticed the same lines when Kia GT4 debuted earlier this week.
Devendra A. Ishi
Bothe looks Similar But KAI Looks Better than VW.
Jyoti Gupta
i don't think so
Damien Clay
Hey when are you going to update the rumors section on the automobile mag app automobile magazine
Tyson F Nuss
Little surprise Schreyer is dusting off and updating some old ideas his former employer never produced. I also notice some Saab influence above the beltline.
John Paul Hussein
Nice Audi R8...
Doug Skipper
yes, the same color!
Chrishanth Raj
its look damn gud...never mind copying......
Shusaku Yamasita
Why Korean can't make original cars !
Arun Pandi
i am love this car
Alexander Stewart
Well the guy who designed the KIA probably helped make this VW considering he worked for them then
Kyree S. Williams
It's worth noting that Kia's head designer, Peter Schreyer, was once in charge of Volkswagen/Audi design. Schreyer was hired by the Koreans in 2006, and has since been given responsibility of Hyundai design as I wouldn't be surprised if Kia/Hyundai products indeed have some similarities to past or even present VW Group products.
Colin McNeely
The KIA looks much, much better!!!
Carlos Zanetti
Kia chief designer is Peter Schreyer who is German and previously worked for Voilkswagen.
Carlos Zanetti
Hyundai and Kia are from South Korea. The communist one is NORTH KOREA... The south is as capitalistic or more than the USA...
Steven Matthew Myers
Lots of liberally- um, borrowed concepts, but cues and elements are different in execution.
Steve Young
Shameless copying .
Richard Macintyre
yeah, upscale designers and then they turn around and offer an attractive product at a much more reasonable price. They didn't get where they are by screwing up.
Richard Macintyre
I'm deeply saddened when even an automotive journalist, gives into this inane "it looks like" BS which has become a very sad epidemic. If they weren't the same color, would the similarity come to mind? they have grills, stacked headlamps and similarly shaped tail lamps which you'd think would remind more people of Volvo than anything. I've been reading Mr Cumberford forever. I'm very disappointed at his contributing to a now encouraged, automotive version of a Sesame Street game.
Benjamin Leighton Jr
I think it's dumb that people are defending communist countries.
Beyazıt Çakır
It's like Şimşek mcqueen :) You will write "simsek mcqueen" at google
Matthew Gill
Who cares it looks great, give me one
Stephen Abbott
Typical Korean car manufacturer. Copy, copy, copy. Although I thought KIA had moved beyond that stage.
Justice Edwards
Hey, it works for me, either-way!
Erick Ople
Well isn't KiAs designer originally from Audi/vw?!?
Jon Kithcart
Totally!... Again speaks to my belief... Asian auto manufactures are totally lost when it comes to styling... Inside and out
Ruben Bustos
Typical kia...
Lyndon Johnson
They're not copying. They hired the man who used to design VWs for a living to design their own cars. So maybe he just recycled an old idea?
Hayden Lorell
I am the worlds least supportive person for Korean auto makers (because they are copy cats). But I am not convinced with this. The stinger is obviously lower, wider, more aggresive. They DO share similar boomerang tail lamps, and a GOPPING face. However the VW has no effort put into the grille, and the kia has that signature "pinched" oval front. Color is obsviously the same, but where as the VW has a black diffuser with a nice oval center mount exhaust, the Stinger settles with a more traditional dual circular exhaust set up, with that youll also notice the Divit in the rear bumper of the kia, and if you look at the glass hatch youll also notice a divit AND if you look at it from a far youll notice its the same shape as the "pinch" in the front grille, so essentially it has the kia signature on the front and rear which is very clever. Then there are the side air scoops on the hind quarters of the VW, that are non existant on the Kia. I will also admit the headlamps on the Kia evoque a modern take on the VWs setup. So again....Not completely Convinced.... NOW if you look at the SIDE PROFILE of the kia, that is pure Audi Quattro and Quattro sport concept. The Thick B pillar and stocky sloping rear, I thought of that instantly when I saw it. But again, not convinced yet its a pure copy cat.
Gregory Easton
The KIA looks to be more of an every day road car while the VW looks more like a track car. And really, aren't these just exercises anyway? Not like they'll build 'em.
@automobilemag i like that @VW
Thomas Mann
Or Crossfire
Bill Cohen
same color, 4 wheels - yeah exact same car
Ross Mazin
it really does
Jamal Aliyev
Mack Murphy
Kia and Hyundai copy a lot of design ideas from other manufacturers
RJ O'Connor
Maybe VW should have moved its collective ass a little quicker!
Mehrdad Sheidaee
Stop accusing Koreans for copying. They put their asses to hard work to create ideas and u simply say they copy stuff. Unfair
Sangeeth Povil
only colures same..

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