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WHO ARE THOSE GUYS?

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, Jul 19, 2005

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Kia's KCV3 concept car

WHO ARE THOSE GUYS? By BILL WRIGHT

"Who are those guys?" If you're of a certain age (or a movie buff), you recognize this as the recurring line from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." As Butch and Sundance were being pursued up and down across the territory, they kept looking back to see that the posse was edging ever closer. In the late 1960s and into the 70s, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler (along with the now defunct American Motors) should have been asking themselves that question about the Europeans and especially the Japanese.

Kia's KCD Mesa II concept SUV Fast forward 35 years. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Europeans and the Japanese have all established their niches. In Toyota's case, it's more than a niche. It's only a matter of time before they overtake GM to become the biggest auto manufacturer in the world. And GM, in particular, is wondering just how long they'll be around in their present form. Well, boys and girls. There's a new posse in town, and this time they come from Korea. First it was Hyundai, in 1986, followed by Kia in 1993.

Kia Mojave concept truck Let's take a look at Kia in particular. Just 12 years ago, it was easy to dismiss Kia as anything but a serious player when it placed 1,800 Sephias with Budget Rent-a-Car in the Fall of 1993. Did anyone really think that car could be sold to Americans? The unspoken yet understood answer was, of course, no. But, when the first Sephias went on sale in Portland, Oregon in February of 1994, people bought them. It wasn't hard to understand why: They stickered at $8,495, and Kia even offered Roadside Service. Kia has been selling cars in the USA for just over 11 years now, and they've come a very long way. The manufacturer offers four sedans (in a variety of model iterations), two SUVs, and a minivan. They've established a design center and a desert-proving ground in California. Today, it's not unusual to see the Korean brands right up there at the top of the myriad of J.D. Power quality surveys.

Kia Slice concept crossover One can't ignore the fact the things have not always been rosy for Kia. There was that uncomfortable period in 1997 when Kia was forced into bankruptcy and came very close to liquidation. Instead, Kia was merged into the Hyundai group and began their climb back to profitability. It should be noted that Kia was hardly alone in having major financial troubles at that time. The Korean government itself was forced to turn to the IMF, hat in hand, for a bailout. Unlike their North American brethren, the Koreans suffer no illusions that they're the last in line to sell cars here. On the other hand, they don't have to ask "who are those guys?" Hyundai/Kia (along with the other car makers) should be able to see that China and India are both gearing up to make the move from the minors to play in the major leagues.

Kia's new Rio5 For more information on Kia products, go to www.kia.com.

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