Kia is South Korea's oldest and second largest car manufacturer. The company, originally called the Kyungsung Precision Industry, was founded in June 1944 to produce steel tubing and hand-made bicycle parts. They progressed to complete bicycles in 1951, before the name change in 1952 indicated a major alteration of intent.
'Kia' references a literal meaning, "to arise from, or come from, Asia". The Sino-Korean words 'ki', meaning, "to come out" and 'a' indicating 'Asia'. However, 'Kia' also alludes to secondary attributes from the Persian name 'Kia' - king, protector, and defender - derived from Korea's place at the end of the Silk Road, the great trade route from East to West for over 2500 years. Kia model names in the consumer and defence markets take their inspiration from this root meaning.
Determined to develop its business, Kia began making motorcycles in 1957 and trucks in 1962. Kia cars were not manufactured until 1974. This side of the business did not flourish until 1986 when, in partnership with Ford, who had taken a stake in Kia, they began building Mazda designs for the home market. At that time, Ford owned 20 per cent of Mazda.
Kia began to expand overseas, incorporating Kia Motors America in 1992 to sell the Sephina and Sportage. There was some success, until the 1997 Asian financial crisis drove the company to bankruptcy. Hyundai, not Ford, took the opportunity to take a major interest. With their help, Kia rebuilt and realigned their business. In 2005, Kia began to focus on vehicle design and penetrating the European market.
This transformation of the company's focus has been the greatest achievement for Kia. As a result, Kia sales are now an important factor in the UK, with a range of cars finding their way onto the used Kia cars catalogue. They include the Sportage SUV, Sorento medium SUV, Sedina MPV, the Ceed family hatchback, and more recently, the Soul, Carens and Venga.
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