Even more stealthily than its sister division, Hyundai, Kia has been climbing the sales charts, growing some eight percent even in disastrous 2009. This year and next will see a major overhaul to Kia's product portfolio, which now spans eleven models.
The new cars will showcase the work of Peter Schreyer, who became the brand's chief designer in July 2006. Previously with Audi and Volkswagen, the talented German's first effort for Kia was 2007's KND-4 concept; the new Forte was his first design to appear in showrooms. And that's only the beginning.
The redesigned Sorento, the first product out of Kia's brand-new factory in Georgia, is just now rolling into dealerships, and Kia will continue its product offensive in 2010 with the third-generation Sportage. This sister model to the Hyundai Tucson will be unveiled at the New York auto show and go on sale this summer. Also set for a New York debut is the new Optima, which hits dealers this fall.
Next year promises still more, starting with the Rio replacement. The subcompact segment is Kia heartland and a worldwide growth market, which is why the Koreans decided to expand the Rio range from two to three body styles, as a sporty hatchback coupe joins the four-door sedan and four-door hatchback. The 2011 model year will see the arrival of the range-topping Cadenza, which takes the place of the recently departed Amanti. At the tail end of the year or in early '12, both the Rondo and Sedona minivans will be replaced by a brand-new van. Slightly bigger and roomier than the European Ford Grand C-Max, the people mover from Korea is expected to be lower and wider than its rivals, its seven-seat cabin accessible via four conventionally hinged doors.
Once all these new bread-and-butter cars are in place, the brand will consider a couple of halo vehicles, sources say. One possibility is a rear-wheel-drive coupe/roadster based on a shortened Genesis platform. The appearance of a rear-wheel-drive flagship would be an impossible-to-miss indicator that Kia has truly left the bargain basement behind.