When you walk into Butler Kia, the enthusiasm you hear our employees expressing about the vehicles they sell and repair could not be more sincere. That’s because if you’ve been selling Kias long enough, you remember a time when the only thing you had to get people excited about was a warranty.
We sometimes try to pinpoint the moment, vehicle, or model-year when Kia had fully transformed from a bargain brand to a legitimate automotive juggernaut. Sometimes we think back to 1998, when the Asian financial crisis saw Kia face bankruptcy and, eventually, join forces with Hyundai Motor Company. Sometimes we think back to 2000, when Kia introduced the first generation of their flagship Optima sedan.
But a more likely culprit for the title of Kia’s Turning Point is rapidly approaching: the hiring of Peter Schreyer, architect of Volkswagen Auto Group’s resurgence, in 2006. Schreyer is directly responsible for Kia’s design language, which sets it apart from any lineup in the industry, and also played a major role in reversing stereotypes and preconceptions about Korea’s second-largest car company.
Here are a few examples of the wisdom and inspiration that Schreyer has put into Kia’s lineup over the past ten years:
On Building a Brand: “When I started at Kia, it was important that we established an identity and a consistent feeling across the brand. But the story of how our new vehicles came to life is about so much more than just aesthetics. It involves intricate choices in how complex ideas work together to create something that generates an emotional response.”
On Drawing Inspiration from Culture: “For designers, it’s important to not only look at cars, but to be interested in architecture, art, music, industrial design…all sorts of things. They are influencing us and we are influencing them. People now know more about Korea, and about what’s going on there. On the one hand you have this ‘heartbeat’ when you go to Seoul, and on the other hand you have the silence, the concentration. Both of these things inspire me and our designers.”
On the Future of Kia: “What really excites me is how fast this company is evolving. The brand as you knew it 10 or even five years ago is gone. You can see it in even the smallest detail. You can feel it in the sophisticated textures and materials. And you experience it in ways that are inter-related and connected. As we move forward, it’s important that change is an improvement and not just for the sake of looking different.”
Thanks for a decade to remember, Peter, and here’s to the tiger-nosed years to come.