Kia (or Kyungsung Precision Industry, as it was labeled originally) was formed in 1944 in South Korea, making it South Korea's oldest car manufacturer, and second largest (after Hyundai). In fact, Hyundai actually owns part of the Kia company. The brand name "Kia" comes from the native South Korean tongue and means "coming out of Asia." Kia was originally a manufacturer of hand-crafted bicycle parts and steel tubing. The company continues to do this same kind of production today, in addition to its automobile manufacturing. By 1951, Kia started building full bicycles, and in 1952, the company officially got its Kia name the next year. In 1957, Kia started building motorcycles, and from there moved on to pickup trucks in 1962 and cars 1974.
Beginning in 1986, Kia took advantage of its alliance with Ford to produce various Mazda-inspired vehicles in its home country and several other countries. The Kia lineup at this time included models such as the Capital, Concord, Pride, and Potentia. The Kia Pride was fashioned after the Mazda 121, and the Kia Avella for example, were sold as the Ford Aspire and the Ford Festiva in North America and Australia. By 1992, Kia Motors America was established. Establishing itself in Portland, Oregon, the Kia brand slowly expanded from there across the U.S. In 1994, the Kia Sephia was sold, and a few years later the Kia Sportage was added to the U.S. lineup due to the overwhelming popularity of SUVs in the U.S. Kia had some financial trouble in the late 1990s (leading to its 51 percent ownership by Hyundai), but it recovered, and since then has opened several new manufacturing plants in the United States. Kia Motors Europe has also been very successful since its establishment.
Kia competes heavily with automakers such as Honda, Mazda, and Toyota, especially in the U.S, where the company currently selling the Sedona minivan, the SUV Sorento, the small, funky Kia Soul (an city passenger vehicle), the SUV Sportage, and the Optima sedan (which also comes in hybrid and coupe variations). There are currently over seven hundred Kia dealers in the United States.
The Kia Soul is, perhaps, one of the most interesting fresh-faced Kia models on the market today. It was first showcased at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, and was produced beginning in 2010. Starting right under $14k and full of stylish technologies and accessories, the colorful Soul in a sporty urban, hatchback crossover that's fun to drive and has excellent safety ratings. Popular, quirky advertisements by the Kia brand have led to extremely high sales of the Kia Soul this year. Another favorite continues to be the Kia Optima, which was first introduced in 2000 and has been marketed globally using various nameplates, such as the Kia Magentis across several markets, and the Kia Lotze & Kia K5 in South Korea. The Kia Optima is a four-door sedan. Its first generation spanned from the years 2000 to 2005, its second generation spanned from 2005-2010, and its third generation began in 2011. The Kia Optima hybrid model landed for the 2011 year in the U.S., as did the Kia Optima coupe, while a wagon version hit the European market around the same time.