- Kia is expected to introduce a BMW 5 Series competitor in about 18 months, Edmunds has learned.
- Handling, styling will emulate the German brands.
- A 10-speed automatic transmission will boost fuel economy.
CHICAGO — Kia (known as a Chevrolet and Ford competitor) is taking steps to challenge the BMW 5 Series and other luxury sedans with a large rear-wheel-drive sedan that could land in the U.S. market in 18 months.
The stylish sedan is known as the Kia K9 in Korea where the redesigned car went on sale last year. The car is called Quoris (pronounced "chorus") in markets outside of Korea.
"The exact pricing and [sales] volume are still being decided and worked out," Stephen Kosowski, manager, long range strategy and planning for Kia Motors America, told Edmunds in an interview on Thursday at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show.
Although Kosowski said the final decision to sell the car in the United States has not been made, industry sources expect sales to begin possibly as early as 2014, as a 2015 model.
Kia, a company primarily known for mainstream, entry-level vehicles, has set a lofty goal.
Late last year, Kia Vice Chairman Hyoung-Keun Lee told dealers at a meeting in New Zealand that the automaker would become a premium global player over the next five years. He said Kia's high-end models would provide beautiful styling, exceptional refinement and state-of-the-art technology, factors synonymous with German and Japanese luxury brands. For example, a 10-speed automatic transmission will be offered to improve fuel economy, developed by its parent company.
"Management is very ambitious," Kosowski said.
The Quoris would target Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class buyers if the car is approved for the U.S. market, he said.
The K9/Quoris shares a rear-drive platform with the Hyundai Equus along with V8 and V6 engines. The Equus is Hyundai's luxury sedan and the car's proportions are similar to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The Equus' sticker price starts just above $60,000. Last year Hyundai sold nearly 4,000 Equus vehicles in the United States. The Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, located in Seoul, South Korea, owns Hyundai and Kia.
Kosowski said the Quoris "will certainly be positioned as a flagship" if approval is given to sell the car here. He did not provide any details about a potential pricing strategy.
Kosowski said the automotive group is building a research and development center in Germany, near the Nurburgring racetrack. The track is used by German and a handful of other automakers to tune the suspension system of their luxury and performance cars.
That Hyundai/Kia facility "is there for a reason," Kosowski said. "They recognize the importance of dynamics."
Kia has been slowly adding larger, more expensive models to its U.S. line. Next month the Kia Cadenza goes on sale, a front-wheel-drive sedan aimed at Ford Taurus and Toyota Avalon buyers. Additionally, a rear-wheel sedan that would be about the size of the rear-drive Hyundai Genesis sedan is being considered, positioned between the Quoris and the Cadenza.
Said Kosowski: "We have significant aspirations with respect to moving the brand [upward]. But we certainly recognize the challenge."
Edmunds says: Hyundai has struggled to gain acceptance for its Equus sedan, a Mercedes-Benz E-Class competitor. Will luxury buyers avoid the Kia store and shop elsewhere?