For many of us, when we hear the names #Kia and Hyundai, we immediately think of cheap, almost disposable cars. We associate these brands with memories of the old Pony subcompact, and cars that required ten-year warranties to reassure us of our investment. At one time, Korean cars were thought to be only one level above a Yugo to North American consumers.
We're all about to get a bit of a shock next year though, when the new $70,000 Kia K900 sedan goes on sale. At the same time, big brother Hyundai is preparing to roll out a newly restyled Genesis, with the intention of taking on the big German luxury brands, namely the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the Audi A6.
Hyundai and Kia are not abandoning their traditional customer base, they're still selling oodles of inexpensive subcompacts, but even they have been transformed, upping their style quotient and offering trim and performance that one would expect from higher tier segments and vastly improving fit, finish and design.
While holding a firm grip on entry level vehicles, these Korean automakers are working hard and fast to plug their vehicles into every segment, and are moving higher through the ranks, with several mid-level sedans in the $40,000 range. Taking things to levels nearly unimaginable a decade ago, Hyundai struck gold with it's Genesis sedan, winning the North American Car of the Year award. Since then it has released the Equus, a full sized model aimed at the Mercedes-Benz S-Class audience. It's not putting Germany on the run, but it's definitely helping to enhance the brand's image. The company is working on other upmarket models and there could be several in their line-up by the end of the decade.
Kia too, is moving up in the automotive world with it's new K900 sedan. It's expected to lead the way for a slightly lower priced vehicle that will be comparable to the Genesis later. Kia is also planning to build a new performance sedan, based on their GT concept car that was shown at the 2011 auto show in Frankfurt, as early as late 2016 to follow their new flagship, the Kia K900.
The two companies seem intent on filling every segment with their wares. Going upmarket only makes sense. It improves the overall perception of their vehicles, and the margins are much higher. Since the 2008 launch of the Genesis, Hyundai's brand awareness has doubled among U.S. buyers.
There is also the anticipation of Chinese automakers entering the North American market with their own cheap cars, and so Hyundai and Kia will need to cover more ground and not rely on being king of econoboxes. Chinese automakers have been delayed in entering our market here but have become a factor in places such as Brazil, and we have to expect that they will eventually make their way here.
It seems that Kia and Hyundai are changing perceptions of Korean vehicles, and gaining much greater acceptance in higher end segments.
By Linda Aylesworth - autoExpert.ca