How Kia pulled off a massive turnaround in the U.S.


Korean carmaker Kia is something of a Cinderella story.

When the automaker arrived in the U.S. in 1994, its cars were poorly reviewed, and it was seen mostly as a low-cost value brand. 

Now, Kia is winning awards and commanding higher markups than its peers. U.S. sales have gone from about 12,000 units in 1994 to almost 700,000 units in 2022.

“We had a record in 2022,” said Steve Center, chief operating officer of Kia America, adding that the first half of 2023 brought another sales record. “We have incredible quality recognition from J.D. Power. We have more vehicles that have received ICS awards this year than any other brand. So it’s just everything coming together.”

It is the result of years of investment and research, and some key hires away from prestigious luxury and performance brands such as BMW and Audi.

“It was just like this insane turnaround from a brand that most people would say, ‘I’ve never heard of,’ or ‘I’ve only seen those on the side of the road’ to ‘I want that in my driveway,'” said Ivan Drury, senior director of insights for Edmunds.

But Kia is also facing challenges: several cities are suing it and sister brand Hyundai over a rash of thefts, both brands in August had to recall more than 91,000 vehicles over fire risks and it was locked out of some federal electric vehicle tax credits because it doesn’t currently manufacture its electric vehicles in the U.S.

Plus, it faces a stiff uphill climb to claim EV market share in the U.S.

Tesla dominates the EV market still with about 60% of the pie. All other automakers have share in the single digits. But Kia believes it can take on electric as well as it took on internal combustion.

“Time and tenacity is what’s on our side,” Center said. “We’ve got the tenacity and we’ll get there. Through a larger product line, a fresher product line — and a more exciting. That’s our goal. That’s our promise.”

Watch the video to learn more.

Source : CNBC