History of Kia
Headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, the foundation of Kia was laid in December 1944, when it was dubbed as the Kyungsung Precision Industry. Their primary manufacturing operation when they first started was focused on steel tubing and bicycle parts. In 1951, they concocted the first bicycle, known as the Sumchully in Korea. A year later, the company renamed itself as Kia Industries.
Kia Industries expanded their existing operations and started building Honda-licensed small motorcycles in 1957. It was this company that worked on trucks licensed by Mazda in 1962. They also manufactured their cars in 1974 after starting their first automotive production unit in 1973.
The Sohari Plant was primarily utilized to produce small Brisa vehicles through 1981. Operations gradually came to an end when the then military dictator, Chun Doo-hwan, mandated the consolidation of the industry. During this phase, Kia relinquished it production of passenger cars and starting giving its 100% attention only to manufacturing light trucks.
Kia manufactured about 95,000 vehicles in 1985, but once it began to shut down a year later, the number plummeted to just 26 cars. The company made a comeback into the competitive automotive industry by joining hands with Ford.
The two auto giants collaborated to make several Mazda vehicles that were meant for both South Korean and overseas markets. Some of their creations were the Kia Pride, the Mazda 121, and the Avella.
Venturing into the United States
Kia Motors entered the America market in 1992. Their first vehicles were distributed through the first four dealerships in Portland, Oregon. They diligently penetrated the market, targeting one segment at a time. To begin with, the dealerships sold the Sephia and expanded into the Sportage. By 1995, Kia had 100+ dealerships across 30 states, selling 24,740 vehicles.
The Asian financial crisis plunged Kia into bankruptcy by 1997. Just a year later, Hyundai and Kia reached an agreement under which Hyundai took 51% stake of Kia. In exchange, Kia owns nearly 22 subsidiaries of Hyundai.
Kia Motors America started their $1 billion manufacturing plant in West Point, Georgia towards the end of 2006. The facility started early in 2010 after the carmaker marked its 15th consecutive year of expansion in the states.
In 2014, however, Kia garnered world-wide attention when Pope Francis rode in one of Kia’s compact cars, the Soul. In 2015, the automaker sold 3.3 million vehicles globally, and is currently making a minivan along with a variety of sedans, SUVs, and hybrid vehicles.