Kia plans first sports sedan next year as it seeks younger, more hip image

Wed Feb 3, 2016 7:46am EST
 
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By Hyunjoo Jin

SEOUL (Reuters) - Kia Motors (000270.KS: Quote) plans to launch its first sports sedan next year, people familiar with the matter told Reuters, seeking to burnish a sporty, younger image as larger sibling Hyundai Motor (005380.KS: Quote) builds up its premium offerings.

Kia aims to start producing the sedan, codenamed CK, in May 2017 and will target annual output of 60,000 vehicles, said two people with direct knowledge of the matter, declining to be identified as the plans have not been made official.

The four-door model plans to take on BMW's 4 series (BMWG.DE: Quote) as well as the Audi A5 (BMWG.DE: Quote), and will feature 2.0-litre, 2.2-litre and 3.0-litre engine options, one person said, adding that it will be Kia's second rear-wheel drive car.

Once known for cheap and bland models, both Hyundai and Kia are keen to move upmarket as their cars gain traction with consumers but differentiating their brands has been and will continue to prove a challenge.

Hyundai, which owns 34 percent of Kia, launched standalone luxury brand Genesis last year making it difficult for Kia to compete in that segment, particularly as its lone luxury offering, the K900, has been met with a tepid response from consumers.

"As Kia has no luxury brand, it is trying to position itself as a sporty brand," said a third person with knowledge of the planned new model.

A Kia spokesman declined to comment, saying the company did not comment on plans for new models.

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A model poses next to a Kia Motor's concept car Novo at the Seoul Motor Show 2015 in Goyang in this April 3, 2015 file photo.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Files