K9 and Galaxy S
Kia steps into premium market as follower
By Kim Da-ye
A senior Hyundai Motor Group executive once admitted that the world’s fifth largest automotive company was once a "follower."
It identified competitors and set a course accordingly, he said. The result was value-for-money vehicles that had a short commercial life span.
As the group grew to equal other major global automotive makers such as Ford and Honda, it needed to establish corporate identities and develop independent paths for Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors.
The YF Sonata and K5 mid-size sedans were made during the group’s transition from being a market follower to a market leader. These models were not like any before them. They became brand icons in the
With the launch of the K9, however, Kia Motors is once again imitating the competition, but this shouldn’t be seen as a step backwards because the company is seeking to evolve, entering the premium car market currently dominated by German luxury brands.
“The K9’s main competitors are the BMW 7 Series and the Mercedes S class. Unlike any existing domestic models, the K9 was born to directly compete against imported cars,” Suh Choon-won, the marketing director of Kia Motors, said during a press meeting on Wednesday.
That may explain why the K9 resembles a BMW sedan rather than Kia’s conventional “family vehicle”.
In many ways, the evolution of the K9 resembles that of Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy S smartphone that tried to outdo Apple’s iPhone by adopting similar functions and improving them.
The K9 is perhaps the smartest vehicle available on Korean roads with seven new technology features which the automaker is the first to introduce in Korea.
The “heads up display” on the windshield in front of the driver’s seat is BMWs signature technology, but Kia has enhanced it by making it more colorful and informative with warnings for vehicles approaching from the rear right and left sides.
Kia is also the first Korean carmaker to put in, full light-emitting diode (LED) headlamps, which move sideways and vertically, in their vehicles.
There are blindside warning systems on the windshield and side mirrors and the driver’s seat vibrates warning of hidden danger. This also happens when the car strays from a lane without signaling.
The K9 is also the first Korean car to be fitted with a joystick gear lever, which this reporter enjoyed immensely during a test drive.
But putting nice features together doesn’t always result in a good car if the vehicle isn’t true to basics.
The K9 is a great vehicle. After a 75-kilometer-long test drive, this reporter and a journalist companion in the passenger seat couldn’t identify any flaws.
K9s come in 3.3-liter or 3.8-liter V6 GDI engines, and Kia provided the top-tier “President” trim model with a 3.8 liter engine for the test drive.
The vehicle touts 334 horsepower and has a fuel efficiency of 9.3 kilometers per liter. It also glides along the road smoothly and quietly.
Those with a heavy foot, beware! Traveling at 100 kilometers per hour, feels like below 40 km/h. The K9 effortlessly reached 200 km/h. When this reporter slowed down to 100 km/h because of a speed camera, it felt like the car nearly came to a halt. The two of us in the car wondered if the speedometer was broken.
The car is perfect for executives who travel frequently to the countryside to play golf. A round trip to a remote golf course would not be a strain for the K9 and the gadgetry makes handling the car light and easy.
Last year, 250 out of 318 Samsung group employees who were promoted to executive level chose Kia Motor’s Opirus large sedan from among Ssangyong Motors’ Chairman, Kia Motor’s K7, Hyundai Motor’s Grandeur, Renault Samsung’s SM7 and GM Korea’s Alpheon.
The Opirus has been replaced with the K9 this year, whose dramatic evolution makes it incomparable with its predecessor.
It is surely set to become one of the top choices for executives, especially the tech-savvy.
Kim Chang-sik, executive vice president of the domestic sales division, said, “There have been so many requests from companies for test drive opportunities. Now, we are serving our VIP customers first.” Kia Motors is officially targeting independent business owners and professionals.
The K9 is a “follower” product. The new technologies adapted by the K9 are innovations used by premium brands such as BMW.
Considering it is Kia’s first foray into the premium brand arena, the K9 provides a superior driving experience and the cutting-edge equipment is an achievement for the automaker.