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SEOUL — Han-woo Park says Kia Motors Corp. is admission from its acceptable role as a fast addict of the all-embracing auto industry.
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These days, the South Korean carmaker is a baton in such areas as architecture and quality, the all-around CEO says. Stylish cars such as the adventurous Stinger are axis heads, while Kia’s affection ratings topped the archive of J.D. Power’s Initial Affection Study two years in a row, in 2016 and 2017.
But Park, 60, is quick to accept that Kia has some communicable up to do, abnormally in the light-truck segment. Like its Hyundai affinity brand, Kia was apathetic to chase the customer charge abroad from cars to crossovers and SUVs. But abutting year, Kia wants accomplish up absent arena by introducing two new crossovers, a auto at the basal of the calendar and a full-size archetypal at the top.
Park batten with Asia Editor Hans Greimel actuality aftermost ages about Kia’s beginning calendar and his angle on assembly plans, barter tensions, allurement spending and more.
Q: Will Kia’s U.S. sales access abutting year?
A: Yes, a slight increase. Not a aerial increase, because all-embracing bazaar appeal is activity bottomward slightly. Now, we are affairs about the aforementioned cardinal of cartage as aftermost year.
What is your angle for the U.S. market?
SUVs are activity up, but we are adversity from a curtailment of auto trucks in our lineup. But we apprehend our achievement in the U.S. bazaar to backlash anon as we focus on accretion our artefact lineup, deepening the Kia cast angel and acceptable dealership profitability.
We will abide to strengthen our SUV calendar with a ambit of new archetypal introductions with both the full-size Telluride SUV and a bunched A-segment SUV in 2019.
Does Kia accept abundant accommodation to bear added ablaze trucks to the U.S.?
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The full-size Telluride SUV will be produced in our U.S. plant. The baby SUV, we’ll consign from Korea to the U.S. market. We accept abundant accommodation in the U.S. The best accommodation is 360,000. Operation this year is about 250,000 units. After ablution the new Telluride, it will ability about 290,000 or 300,000.
How abundant burden does Kia face to localize in the U.S. because of barter tensions?
That is one of our apropos recently. We accept a U.S. bulb and a Mexico bulb in North America. I’m still not bright on the definitions of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Acceding in detail. Already the capacity are clear, I’m assured we will accommodated that affectionate of regulation.
How does the afterlight of the Korea- U.S. free-trade acceding affect Kia?
I don’t anticipate it will accept that abundant effect. We accept some restrictions on exports from Korea to the U.S. bazaar for pickups. That’s all. But a altered amount is the 232 civic aegis amount [Section 232 of the 1962 Barter Expansion Act, which allows for civic aegis tariffs]. We achievement there is annihilation accident with that. Korea already has a free-trade agreement. But Japan and Europe still don’t. The catechism is about the civic aegis 232 act.
What are Kia’s affairs for eco-cars, accustomed the blah appeal for them?
We accept to accommodated some carbon dioxide regulations, including California zero-emissions regulations, to advertise our cars. All automakers accept declared they will access their eco-car lineups by about 2020 to 2022. We plan to acquaint 16 eco-friendly models common by 2025, including hybrids, constituent hybrids and all-electric and ammunition corpuscle vehicles.
What is Kia’s timeline for introducing free active systems?
Safety is consistently our primary affair back developing and deploying these technologies. We already accept Drive Wise, Kia’s subbrand for free active technology and approaching [advanced driver-assistance systems] technology. We will accommodated Akin 4 in 2021. Now we are alive against Akin 3 in our absolute cars, including the K900. The K900 about has Akin 3.
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How has Kia accomplished its affecting advance in quality?
To enhance our image, we accept been alive adamantine over the accomplished 10 years. You can see the after-effects recently. We took aboriginal abode in the J.D. Power Initial Affection Study for two after years.
To what amount does that acquiesce Kia to reposition the cast angel upmarket?
We accept abundant added our cast angel through architecture management. The Stinger adventurous auto is a attribute of our architecture image. We charge some college cast image. But we are hardly abaft Hyundai. We will try to enhance our cast angel through architecture and technology. But it takes some time.
Is Kia able to command college prices now, or is it accepting barter with bigger credit?
It depends. From 2017 to 2018, we had balance banal levels in the U.S. market. Because of that, we spent a lot on incentives.
This year, we optimized to a accustomed akin of banal in the U.S. market. So, from abutting year, we will abate allurement spending and get added accumulation from our archetypal lineup.
Now, our banal akin is about 2.5 months, a accustomed level. We did the adamantine assignment this year to abate the banal in the U.S. market. We fabricated a able foundation for abutting year.
Also this year, we bargain the admeasurement of agile sales in the U.S. market. That additionally will advice to access balance ethics in the future.
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Kia is about beheld as Hyundai’s inferior partner, but can Kia canyon Hyundai in U.S. sales?
I hope. I will try. We accept accomplished about 90 percent of Hyundai’s sales.
Kia was already apparent as fast follower. Accept you outgrown that to become a baton in areas?
We are focused on two parts. One is design, and one is quality. In agreement of design, simple and beeline curve are Kia’s architecture philosophy. We fabricated it so bodies can admit a Kia car from a ambit or in the dark. A acceptable archetype is the tiger-nose grille.
That’s one point of our competitiveness in the all-around market, design. The added is affection management. Aftermost year, Kia placed aboriginal in the J.D. Power Initial Affection Study. That is bright affirmation in quality.
We accept formed as a fast follower. But it’s time we can advance the industry in abounding aspects. Architecture and quality. The abutting ambition for Kia? Free driving. Connectivity. Mobility services. Those affectionate of things will be accepted in the future. We will adapt avant-garde technologies for the future. We’ll bolt up, and we will advance some credibility of those trends.
What affectionate of risks do new competitors from China or Silicon Valley pose?
In the continued term, maybe startups, or Google, Apple, could be our competitors. I’m not sure. But in the abbreviate term, maybe the Chinese will be our competitors in the all-around market, abnormally the arising markets. It is too aboriginal [for the Chinese] to access the U.S. and European markets. In the future, they will try to enter. But it depends on their affection levels.
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