From bicycles to award winning cars


BY ELAINE ANG

KIA Motors Corp, South Korea's oldest automaker, was founded in 1944 as Kyungsung Precision Industry, which made bicycle parts by hand. 

The company was originally located in Seoul, but moved to Pusan during the Korean War. While in Pusan, Kia produced the country’s first bicycle and took its current name in 1951. 

Kia produced South Korea's first motorcycle in 1961 and the country's first truck, the 3-wheel K360, the following year. It also produced the country's first gasoline engine in 1973 and, in October 1974, the first passenger car, the Brisa.  

The Brisa became the first Korean vehicle to be exported, when it was sold in the Middle East. Kia also produced South Korea's first diesel engine in 1978.  

The company continued to compete in the automotive industry until 1997, when it fell victim to the Asian financial crisis and was taken over by the Hyundai Business Group the following year. 

When Hyundai Motor Co (HMC) spun off from the group in 2000, its chairman Chung Mong-Koo formed the Hyundai Automotive Group, which comprised Kia, HMC, Hyundai Mobis (a parts supplier) and 19 other companies all related to the group's core business.  

Although Kia and HMC operate as separate companies in the marketplace, both share research and development (R&D) facilities and parts distribution networks. 

At the manufacturing end, Kia and Hyundai are benefiting from the increased use of shared platforms, transmissions and engines. 

By 2008, the number of platforms will be reduced from 23 to six. The two companies will also have 13 different motors at their disposal.  

Kia is currently South Korea's second largest car manufacturer.  

It has three production centres in the country: Hwasung, which has an annual production of 600,000 units; Sohari, which produces 340,000 units; and Kwangju, which manufactures 210,000 commercial vehicles every year.  

In addition, the company has six R&D centres in South Korea, with three operational hubs in Namyang, Sohari and Ulsan. Overseas, the company maintains two R&D centres in the United States, one in Germany and one in Japan.  

Kia also has assembly operations, with joint-venture partners in 12 countries; and its distribution network covers 173 countries and 4,000 dealerships. 

Hyundai's goal to be top five in the world

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