Kia is an auto manufacturer based in Seoul, South Korea. Kia is the second largest automotive company in the country, after Hyundai Motor Company, which owns a significant stake in Kia and is a major influence in Kia’s vehicle design and marketing strategies. However, Kia is an older company than Hyundai, and was founded in 1944 primarily to manufacture bicycles and cycling components. Kia gradually added motorcycles, trucks, and passenger cars to the lineup. South Korea’s political climate forced Kia to change its focus to truck manufacturing in the 1980s, but a few years later, Kia was able to change its focus back to passenger cars, thanks to a collaboration with Ford Motor Company. In 1986, Kia began producing vehicles based on Ford and Mazda models for South Korean customers and for limited export. In 1992, Kia Motors America was founded so Kia could compete in the North American market.
The Kia Sportage, a crossover SUV, made its debut in the late 1990s, but financial problems plagued the automaker and hurt the vehicles’ reputations. Hyundai increased its ownership stake in the brand, enabling Kia to focus on competing with the European automakers. In 2002, Kia introduced the Sorento, a truck-based sport utility vehicle. This new Kia SUV earned recognition for its competent off-road ability and well equipped base models despite a low price of entry. This Kia sport utility vehicle helped the brand regain some lost ground in the North American market. The truck platform was used until the 2009 model year, and in 2011, Kia reintroduced the Sorento as a mid size crossover. The updated Sorento was the first Kia vehicle to be built in the United States, at Hyundai and Kia’s new production plant in West Point, Georgia.
Another well known Kia sport utility vehicle model is the Sportage, although the Sportage is not a true SUV. This Kia crossover SUV has been in production since 1993, in the very early days of the Kia brand, and the model has survived the auto manufacturer’s growing pains. A two-door cloth top convertible version of the Sportage was also available. The first generation was developed with Mazda components, and for a short period in the late 1990s, the Sportage was built both in South Korea and at a Karmann Coachworks facility in Germany, enabling more efficient delivery to the European market. An extended length version of this Kia SUV was added to the lineup in 1996, which enabled Kia to significantly increase the cargo capacity of the Sportage.