In the summer of 2012, the editor of a national newspaper asked me to name and write about the automotive company of the decade.
I named Kia. Oh, how some “experts” laughed. But who’s laughing now? Exactly 10 years later, guess which company just took the top spot in the UK new car sales chart? Just the little old Kia.
In the first quarter of 2022, it overtook sales of Ford (the market leader here for almost half a century) and Volkswagen (the heir apparent – or maybe not), as well as the parent company much richer, Hyundai (oops – that wasn’t supposed to happen).
Collectively, Japan-owned Nissan, Germany-owned MINI and India-owned Jaguar – companies with state-of-the-art factories and design studios in Britain – do not sell as many cars to British motorists as Kia of South Korea. This despite the fact that it still does not have a factory or designers on British soil.
So how did the humble Kia manage to overcome ‘superior’ opposition from companies around the world to grab the top spot? Simple. He had, and still has, the good young guy – Eui-sun Chung – at the helm. Certainly, as the son of Mong-koo Chung (the big daddy of the huge Hyundai Motor Group) Eui-sun was born privileged. But he’s a top guy (I know that because I shared a beer with him) and he’s done a great job since recently taking over the entire HMG empire from his dad. And, crucially, it seems to treat Hyundai and Kia more like equals, less like a headliner and supporting act.
Chung Jr. played a blinder by recruiting engineering/handling god Albert Biermann from BMW’s M division. He pulled off another masterstroke by replacing one of the world’s greatest designers (retired German Peter Schreyer) with another great (Luc Donckerwolke, Belgium’s most talented man and newly crowned World Car -Person of the Year). Additionally, when he needed advice and guidance on the press and public relations fronts, Chung Jnr. sought out and listened to Kia’s wisest and most experienced PR guru (British Stephen Kitson, who spent years in Korea).
In other words, young Chung has ensured that Kias are increasingly fun to drive, look great, are fit to win global awards and deliver levels of quality and reliability that give him the necessary confidence to apply seven-year warranties to them.
The icing on the cake is that he didn’t preach to clients. He is of the opinion that if they want ICE cars, they can have them. He will also be happy to provide electric vehicles. If you prefer a hybrid, no problem. Oh, and if and when there’s a demand for hydrogen-powered Kias, you’ll be able to buy them because it’s been designing, building and using them for years.
Kia is a classic example of a brave, young and once-struggling company that has shamelessly scoured the globe to recruit the right highly paid professionals who quickly design, engineer, build and sell the right cars with the right technology at the right time. – and blessed with the right guarantees.
Click here for our list of the best selling cars in the UK in 2022…