Those of us who lived through the nineties in America remember when Kia cars first became available in the United States. They were labeled as an economically sound investment, equivalent to other vehicles in their class but thousands less to purchase. Though their move to the States is comparatively recent, Kia has been around for a lot longer than that.
Kia began in Korea back in 1944, and is currently headquartered in Seoul. The word Kia, comes from the Korean word “ki” which means “to come out of”, and “a” which is short for Asia. Thus, the company’s name effectively means coming out of Asia, though the Persian roots of the word lie in royalty, “kia” meaning “king.” So much for etymology.
Kia began as a bicycle parts company and rapidly expanded into motorcycles in the fifties, trucks in the sixties, and cars in the early seventies. Today, Kia is found in Asia, in Europe, and all over the U.S. A Chicago Kia dealer is as common as a Seoul Kia dealer.
Kia first entered the United States with four dealerships in Portland, Oregon, back in February 1994. The first car that was sold in the States was the Kia Sephia, but the company soon extended it range to include the Sportage, a compact crossover SUV.
Although Kia had financial problems at the latter end of the nineties, during which Hyundai bought a controlling percentage of the company, Kia has since gained a larger market share of the auto industry and subsequently seen Hyundai’s ownership of the company shrink down to forty percent.
Much of Kia’s industry is based in Europe, and with the introduction of the new “tiger nose” corporate grille, popularity has risen. Much of the success can be attributed to the company’s acquisition of Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer, who did wonders for Audi.
Kia continues to expand with Schreyer continuing to push the envelope in design. What began as a bike parts company has now become one of the world’s leading car manufacturers.