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Kia's GT concept car: A new direction for the automaker?

November 16, 2011|By Rosanna Xia
(Rosanna Xia )

Kia, which has launched nine new products in the last three years, plans to move forward with design-led transformations, unveiling the Kia GT four-door sports sedan concept for the first time in the United States at the L.A. Auto Show.

“This is Kia’s first rear-wheel-drive concept,” said Chief Design Officer Peter Schreyer at Wednesday’s press conference. “Beneath the hood is a 3.3-liter turbocharged engine, 395 horsepower, eight-speed automatic transmission. Put it all together, what you get is a four-door sports sedan that’s sleek and masculine and breathtaking.”

“For us, we’ve been known as a fuel-efficient, quality and value brand,” said Michael Sprague, marketing vice president. “Now we’re moving forward as a design brand."

360° PANORAMA: L.A. Auto Show

Designed by Kia’s European design team and introduced this year at the Frankfurt Auto Show, the GT has a long wheelbase of 112.6 inches, with front and rear-hinged back doors that open slightly upward.

“The rear-wheel drive allows us to play with different proportions,” said Gregory Guillaume, chief designer at Kia’s European Design Center. “The cabin is now further back, and it has a more dynamic silhouette.”

He pointed out the bronze-painted leather seats and the new two-coated vinyl on the doors. The bronze layer below the black layer allows you to buff up the surface and see the bronze shining through,  Guillaume said.

“We think of our customers who are young at heart. Looking for character, style,” Guillaume said. The GT dashboard, made of three layers of glass, is transparent when the LED-lit displays are turned off.

“The GT signals a new direction for Kia — one that is graceful, athletic and confident,” Schreyer said.

No price has been set for the concept car, but Guillaume said that Kia is “seriously thinking like the premium brands that already offer rear-wheel drive.”

“We’ll have a premium adjustment for the GT, but keeping price advantage is still a Kia thing,” he said.

360° PANORAMA: L.A. Auto Show

Boasting the lowest cost of car ownership in the industry, Kia also presented at the press conference its continued investment in its young racing program. Going into its second racing season, Kia featured its Optima race car paired with Kinetic Motorsports as well its new 2012 Rio B-Spec race car.

An appearance by Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin, Kia's new official spokesperson, rounded out the press conference. The basketball player signed a sponsorship deal with Kia this summer.

Moving forward with its design visions, Sprague said, Kia has no specific target market. “Our average buyer is 48 years old,” he said. “The common thread is that they all like the perception that Kia is a cool, upcoming, hip brand, and ‘I want to be seen like that.’”

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--Rosanna Xia

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