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2014 Kia Cadenza (Kia)
As recently as 2010, the website Wall Street 24/7 predicted that Kia Motors would be leaving the U.S., and would be a brand that joined the ranks of the defunct such as Borders Books and Blockbuster Video.

But Kia has surprised everyone, becoming the fastest-growing car brand in the U.S. in the last five years. It has just rolled its one-millionth built vehicle off its Georgia assembly line, and launched its first legitimate premium/luxury vehicle that costs above $40,000 fully loaded.

As the auto industry enjoys another exceptional year of recovery and sales in the U.S. this year, Kia is sharing in the party, expecting to top 500,000 sales a year for the second straight year. It could be more, but the company is hamstrung by supply of vehicles.

"Building one million vehicles in less than four years is a tremendous achievement and one that each one of our more than 3,000 team members can take great pride in," said Byung Mo Ahn, Group President and CEO for Kia Motors America and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia. "People are the heart and soul of this company, and our team members' commitment to world class quality is one of the major driving forces behind Kia's unprecedented sales and market share growth in the U.S. over the last few years."

If Kia suffers from anything in the U.S. it may only be playing second fiddle to its bigger Korean brother Hyundai. The two companies are related, but compete against one another across the globe. Hyundai is Kia's biggest shareholder, and the two Seoul-based automakers share a chairman, vehicle platforms and powertrains. While Kia will sell more than a half million vehicles in the U.S. this year, Hyundai will sell closer to 750,000.

"Kia does live a bit in the shadows of Hyundai, and Hyundai is more an even competitor to Toyota and Honda these days for customers," says Los Angeles-based marketing consultant Dennis Keene. "But Kia is on its way, taking especially young customers away from everyone and weaving a constantly improving quality story."
TOP 5Most Popular Sedans On AOL Autos


Indeed, Kia finally cracked J.D. Power's Top Ten in the firm's annual Initial Quality Study this year, with the Sportage sedan and Soul hatchback leading their respective categories in the study. "Kia has made steady progress, and is a brand to keep watching," says J.D. Power's Dave Sargent, vice president of global research. "One of the things helping Kia with quality is that they are designing quality into the vehicles, as well as the manufacturing quality being good too."

The people of Georgia can be glad of Kia's success and Hyundai's choice to market both brands in the U.S. The West Point, Ga., plant started producing the Sorento crossover in November 2009 in the thick of the economic meltdown in the U.S. The plant has accounted for 11,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region. The plant was built with an initial $1 billion investment and has already been expanded with another $100 million to produce 360,000 vehicles a year. It also builds the Optima sedan there.

"We are very much our own brand, and our own business and I think we will keep growing in the U.S. -- we feel the wind at our backs," said Michael Sprague, executive vice president of marketing and communications in an interview with AOL Autos last January.

But are there speedbumps ahead? Bloomberg News noted last year that only 9 percent of new-car buyers consider a Kia. That compares with 20 percent for Hyundai and over 40 percent for Toyota. That is a problem of awareness on the part of shoppers. But as Kia has been advertising in high profile spaces like the Super Bowl and the NBA, awareness levels, and curiosity, keep climbing.

While the company is launching seven refreshed or redesigned vehicles this year including a total re-do of the popular Soul hatchback, the model that has the spotlight right now is the all-new Cadenza, a premium, if not true luxury, sedan that competes against vehicles like the Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse and Chrysler 300C and tops $40,000.

Kia's designs are part of the success. The company hired renown designer Peter Schreyer away from Audi in 2006, and his influence has been felt throughout the company with designed such as the Soul and redesigned Sorento, Sportage and now Cadenza. His design signature for Kia vehicles has been a "Tiger" nose. "Commenting on the then-new signature grille in 2009, Schreyer said "Tigers are powerful, yet kind of friendly". The nose is "three-dimensional - like a face, not just a surface with a mouth drawn on it."

Kia's ad slogan is "The Power to Surprise." Though it may take a few years for Kia's brand, known mostly for offering good values and compelling designs priced under $25,000, to surprise and attract higher income buyers who can afford a BMW 3 Series at $40,000, reviews of the car are hopeful. AOL Autos sister site Autoblog said this about the new Cadenza: "[After} spending a day with the Cadenza, it might want to consider changing its slogan to "Power to Frighten"... rival automakers. Of course, at this point, anyone who is surprised by Kia just isn't paying attention."

See full Autoblog review here.



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  • 113 Comments
      Rich
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have driven Kia's many times as a rental car when traveling on business. My impression is that they don't quite have the automatic transmission technology up to par with other automobile manufacturers. They never seem to change gears at the proper time and when they do change gears, it's never smooth. They may be better than they were a few years ago but more refinement is definitely needed from what I have experienced.
      lpnx2
      • 1 Year Ago
      Although I have not owned a car in a very long time, ( I am on a fixed income.) I do like the Kia's,especially the SOUL,it is just a love.Everytime I see one I smile all over the place.
      Teresa
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have a 2011 Sorento and Wouldnt trade it for the world!! Love this truck!
      • 1 Year Ago
      I purchased my first KIA Optima SXL last year and Love it!!! Has all of the bells and whistles that Lexus and other luxury cars have at half the price. When people see my car , they look twice and say KIA has really stepped up their game. I have a Toyota and traded in a Nissan Altima coupe, never sorry. Go KIA!!
      Buckingham's
      • 1 Year Ago
      I like my Chevy S10 pickup. ............CORRECTION: I LOVE my Chevy S10 pickup; it's AMERICAN-made.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I BOUGHT A KIA OPTIMA IN 2011 AND IT IS THE BEST CAR I HAVE EVER OWNED, IT IS CLASSY & BEAUTIFUL. NEVER HAD A PROBLEM WITH IT. I WOULD NEVER BUY ANY OTHER BRAND OF CAR BUT KIA. THE ONLY PROBLEM I HAD IS THAT THE FINANCING WAS A LITTLE SCARY. THAT MAN THAT HELPED ME WAS A CROOK. AT 475.46 A MONTH I JUST GOT MY STATEMENT AND I STILL OWE OVER 25,000.00 WITH A LOW INTREST RATE. HE WAS SO GOOD AT FIGURES HE MADE IT SOUND LIKE THE BEST DEAL EVER. HE IS NO LONGER THERE. CAN ANY THING BE DONE ABOUT THAT? JUDY
      fautocom
      • 1 Year Ago
      Friend of mine just bought an Optima hybrid... 42 mpg first week..in and out of town.. Car is not too bad, considering that it is built by hamsters....
      d1970westernstar
      • 1 Year Ago
      See a LOT of places closed down out there on the road because jobs moving over in other countries you go look for yourself too slow if u don't believe been all over the country and I've already seen it wait about 5 more Years and and see how u feel losing your job to another country my friend lost his job IN this country to Canadians who bought out where he worked and brought in Canadians to replace all the american workers So you don't tell anybody their dum ass when you don't know what's going on
      buggsym
      • 1 Year Ago
      Question for all of you buy America morons. Why should I pay more for a lower quality product just to keep some lazy union jerk employed?
      Ismael
      • 1 Year Ago
      I always was under the impression that KIAs are cheap quality. Maybe it's not true anymore.
      T Rock
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have a 2005 Sorento 4x4 and have had no problems with it. It's got 87k and still running strong. I'd get a new one but they changed it to a front wheel drive. I was a Hyundai mechanic back in 87- we put them thru some wild road tests and they stood up to it.
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have a 1989 Festiva as said made for Ford. It has over 500,000 miles on it. Only problem has been wheel bearings. Wish I could get another car as good as this.
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