South Korean carmaker Kia Motors wants to position itself as a premium brand when it makes its market debut in India around the second half of 2019. A late entrant into the country, Kia hopes to stand out in a crowded market with products that are more aspirational than its well-established rivals.
"We will position ourselves at a slight premium because we cannot compete with Maruti and Hyundai on cost," Han-Woo Park, President of Kia Motors told Autocar India on the sidelines of Auto Expo 2018.
Kia believes design will be a key differentiator for the brand, enabling its models to appeal to a different set of customers. The brand aims to set itself apart from other carmakers – including sister company Hyundai – on the back of its attractive, sporty-looking designs targeted at younger customers; a strategy also adopted in the global markets.
"We will compete with other automakers on the basis of our design, which is stylish, young and vibrant. With elements such as our signature ‘Tiger Nose’ grille, we'll be able to differentiate our cars from others," Park said.
Kia showcased the edgy-looking SP Concept at the 2018 Auto Expo. The SUV previews the first vehicle Kia will launch in the country, next year when it rolls out of a spanking new factory in Andhra Pradesh in which the automaker plans to pump in over a billion dollars (around Rs 6,400 crore).
The SP Concept features the familiar ‘Tiger Nose’ grille at the front, slim headlamps, large fog lamp housings, rugged wheel arches and oversized wheels. The production SUV will be based on a new platform that will also underpin the all-new Creta, which is also its key rival. Although the model will be launched as a five-seater, the platform is capable of producing a seven-seater as well; a possibility it will evaluate based on people’s response to the five-seater.
"The platform is fully capable of developing a seven-seater. However, we will focus on a five-seater, first and if the response is good, we will consider a seven-seater,” said Park. “The vehicle is not only for the India market but also for the global market."
Park says entering the market with an SUV was a no-brainer, given the immense popularity of the segment in the country. The former Hyundai India MD and CEO will draw from his experience in the Indian automotive industry to offer a high-quality vehicle at an affordable price.
"Most importantly, we have to focus on reducing the cost for the Indian customers. I have a lot of experience in India, so we will try to bring out some cost advantage and meet their price expectations," Park said.
Apart from the SP Concept-based SUV, Kia could tap into its international range to expand its model line-up in India. While it displayed a range of vehicles from its global range at Auto Expo 2018, it is unlikely that all of them will make it to India. Strong candidates would be the i20 rival Rio, and the Sportage – which would go up against the hugely popular Compass.
Kia at the Auto Expo 2018 first look video
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