Kia Motors is looking to become a premium global automaker by 2017. At a recent gathering of the automaker’s top dealers and distributors, vice chairman Lee Hyoung-Keun revealed the automaker’s five-year target. According to a report in New Zealand’s Scoop, Kia is looking to be on par with premium European and Japanese brands.
Recently, Kia debuted its midsize Cadenza, which would signal a move into the more upscale space. Even smaller cars like the new Kia Forte are much improved from the models of just a few years ago. Kia parent Hyundai, which operates separately in North America, has also raised speculation that it was considering a separate luxury brand to feature its Genesis and Equus models. The automaker introduced the Azera earlier this year, which also represents a more premium approach. But when Automotive.com asked CEO John Krafcik about the plans, he indicated that for now everything would remain under the Hyundai nameplate. But it begs the question, will similar speculation surround Kia? Will buyers shell out for a Kia logo, for an automaker that also makes economy cars like the Kia Rio?
Currently, Kia is riding a wave of momentum and strong sales from models like the 2013 Kia Optima, which is marketed based on its sporty nature and driving characteristics. While the build quality of the Optima leaves something to be desired, we couldn’t have imagined five years ago that Kia would be building and selling such a car. With that in mind, we wouldn’t bet against the Korean automaker’s premium aspirations.