Kia's Concept Right on 'Kue'
South Korean automaker Kia showed it can create emotional vehicle designs when it unveiled its Kia Kue crossover sport-utility concept in a world premiere at the North American International Auto Show.
The silver-gray Kue is powered by a 400-horsepower 4.6-liter supercharged V8 and rides on big, 22-inch wheels and tires―far larger than standard wheels on even today’s SUVs―that are pushed far out to the corners. Swept-back headlights frame a non-fussy grille.
The vehicle’s striking back end is bold and shaped like an egg. The Kue’s interior, with front seats that swivel, could have come from a spaceship.
“When you look at the great (car) brands, there’s always a catalyst, a special ingredient … and it’s passion,” said Len Hunt, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Kia Motors America. “For Kia, your next step will be breakthrough design.”
He also announced that the Soul compact crossover sport-utility vehicle that was revealed at the NAIAS in Detroit in 2006 is being readied for production and will be on sale for 2008. He did not provide details.
New Kia Chief Design Officer
The new concept at this year’s show, the Kue, is not planned for production at this point. But it served as something of a coming-out party for Kia’s new chief design officer. Peter Schreyer joined the Korean company just 18 weeks before the Detroit auto show. He had led the design of the initial TT sports car at Audi in 1994. Most recently, he was head of advanced design at Volkswagen.
Schreyer said some aspects of the Kue could portend future vehicle designs at Kia, in particular the clean tautness of the sheet metal. He praised the “simplicity of the straight line.” This would contrast with earlier Kia concepts that had bulbous lines and waves here and there.
Schreyer said designers now are working on “a new face” for Kia. Asked if he needed to craft a design character for Kia that incorporates Korean or Asian influences, Schreyer said he’s more interested in “good” design that also can translate and appeal globally. And that, he said, is more often found in “clean, clear” styling devoid of cosmetics.
Schreyer joins Kia as the company is readying a new design center in Irvine, Calif., that will have a prominent hand in future Kias sold in the U.S. For years, Kia’s designs came out of a combined Hyundai-Kia design effort. Hyundai owns Kia.
Separate Brand Identity
But Hyundai and Kia executives now want to differentiate the two brands more and give each its own character.
No wonder, then, that Schreyer said that he likens his work at Kia to “skiing through fresh snow.”
“There are no tracks,” he said. “I have a lot of freedom.”
Hunt noted that Kia had its 13th straight year of record U.S. sales.