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History of Kia

Kia is one of the largest Korean automakers. It primarily sells low-cost passenger cars. It also offers trucks, vans, and SUVs. Although most Americans and Europeans did not learn about Kia Motors until the 1990s, the company first appeared many decades ago.

Early History

Kia was founded in 1944. The Seoul-based enterprise manufactured bicycle components and metal tubing. After seven years, it started to produce bicycles. The bicycle remained the primary mode of transportation in Korea during the 1950s. The company began to make motor scooters in 1957.

Cars and Trucks

Kia introduced its first automobile in 1962. The K-360 was a small truck with only three wheels. The company developed a larger model with four wheels in 1971. It started to assemble vehicles for Peugeot and Fiat in 1974. It also began to make a compact car called the Brisa. This model was based on the same design as the Mazda Familia. Two years later, Kia started producing military trucks.

The Korean automaker went on to introduce its first station wagon in 1978. However, it had to stop making cars in 1981 because the South Korean government ordered the company to focus all of its efforts on truck manufacturing. Within the year, Kia started to produce a small cargo truck called the Bongo. It had a four-cylinder engine and two seats. The company established a research and development center in 1984.

Rising Exports

Kia began exporting vehicles to the United States and Europe during the 1990s. The brand's SUVs and sedans reached many parts of the U.S. by 1996. The Sephia sedan sold for less than $8,500; the car's low price helped it outsell competitors. Before long, there were over 100 Kia dealerships in North America. Some models also became popular in Western Europe. Kia established an English-language website in 1997.

Recent History

Despite the company's success in exporting vehicles, the Asian financial crisis forced Kia to file for bankruptcy in 1997. Two years later, fellow Korean automaker Hyundai bought 51 percent of Kia Motors. Strong sales enabled the company to recover from its financial difficulties. Kia introduced new minivan and hatchback models in 2001. Three years later, it began to sell the Amanti sedan and the Sorento SUV.

At present, Kia produces a range of relatively compact vehicles. Current models include the Soul, Optima, Rio, and more. The company recently began to manufacture SUVs in the United States. Globally, it provides employment for approximately 42,000 workers.