Kia preparing the U.S. market for its first luxury sedan

Article by Christian Andrei, on February 22, 2012

Kia hasn’t confirmed if its first rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan would be sold in the U.S. Kia has been bringing the big sporty GT concept to different stops throughout the show circuit. The GT is scheduled to appear in four U.S. shows and one in Canada. With this model, Kia will enter the segment that’s occupied by the Audi 6, BMW 5 series, Mercedes-Benz E class as well as the Hyundai Equus.

Days ago, Kia Motors Corp. revealed that the sedan will be introduced in Korea by this summer. Its production car, code-named KH, will be sold worldwide. A lot of the GT's design will show up on the KH, which is built on the same platform as Hyundai's Equus sedan.

Currently, the most expensive sedan in the U.S. from Kia is the Optima Limited, which is priced by about $35,000. If the KH is sold in the U.S., it’s presumed to be similarly priced to the Equus, which ranges from about $59,000 to $66,000. According to Tom Loveless, Kia's North American sales chief, if the rwd sedan is offered the U.S., it would be positioned above the Credenza (a new Kia sedan that starts selling next year).

The front-wheel-drive Credenza is bigger and offers more luxury than the Optima and is targeted at buyers who drive the Chrysler 300, Ford Taurus, or the Toyota Avalon. Pricing wasn’t divulged but it’s likely that the Credenza will probably sell in the mid-$30s to low $40s.

Michael Sprague, Kia's North American marketing boss, said that it’s unclear if the KH would be offered in the U.S. However, Sprague said that this would be a limited edition halo vehicle. Kia has released sketches of the KH that indicate a similarity to the GT concept, which made its debut last September at the Frankfurt auto show and has been displayed in Los Angeles and Chicago. The concept is presently heading to Toronto, Atlanta and New York.

As revealed, Kia’s new GT concept car represents a design direction for the South Korean carmaker – dynamic and elegant. Kia GT concept car is a four-door sports sedan with a rear-wheel drive layout, sleek yet muscular proportions and a modern interior that could comfortably accommodate four occupants. Kia’s designers in Europe had been toying with the idea of a dynamic rear-wheel drive Kia saloon even before the carmaker commenced the Kia GT concept in November 2010.

Kia’s Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer remarked that the Kia GT concept allowed them to explore new design directions, adding that a rear-drive layout allows for different proportions compared to its front-wheel drive counterpart. He noted that the rear-wheel drive performance saloon should be appealing to South Korean, European and American markets. Kia's European Design Chief Gregory Guillaume revealed that the design team for the concept took inspiration from 1970s GT cars, which he described as sumptuous and elegant vehicles capable of transporting people in long distances in style and with high speed. Guillaume quipped that Kia’s designers aimed to build something similar to these GT cars in terms of their grace, athleticism and confidence without creating a car that is aggressive or overbearing.

Central to the design of Kia’s new GT concept is its aeronautical theme, as marked by its multi-piece propeller-style wheels made from alloy and carbon fiber, its low-slung front air intake, rear diffuser, winglets curving in from the front flanks into the headlamps and its jet-themed rear-view cameras. This theme is inspired by Kia’s Kee concept car unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2007. It also features an array of central design elements found from the Kee and the 2010 Kia Pop concept cars.

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