Kia Motors Corporation is a South Korea-based automaker that was established in 1944. It is the second largest automaker in South Korea. The company started out as a manufacturer of hand-crafted bicycle parts, although it later moved into motorcycle production, truck production, and finally began to produce cars in 1974. Kia is a publicly traded company, although over half of its shares are currently held by fellow South Korean automaker Hyundai.

kia logo

The name “Kia” can be translated as, “rising out of asia.”


History of Kia Motors Corporation

Kia Motors Corporation was founded in 1944 as Kyungsung Precision Industry, and it was originally engaged in the business of fashioning bicycle parts by hand. This business eventually expanded into the production of complete bicycles, and the company moved into motorcycle production in 1957. The first Kia automobiles were light trucks produced in 1962, and the first cars were produced in 1974.

Government restrictions prevented Kia from building anything other than light trucks between the years of 1981 and 1986. When those restrictions were lifted, the company entered into a cooperative arrangement with Ford. At the time, Ford had acquired an interest in Mazda, and it was able to provide Kia with the rights to produce a number of small cars that were based on Mazda vehicles (particularly the 121 and the Avella.) These vehicles were then badged as Fords and sold in both North America and Australasia.

Kia’s first entry into the North American market came in 1992 when it established Kia Motors America. The first Kia to be sold in the United States was the Sephia, which was followed shortly by the Sportage. Today, there are Kia dealerships all across the United States.

In 1997, Kia declared bankruptcy. Over half of the company was acquired at that time by Hyundai, although Ford also attempted to purchase a large share. Ford had previously owned a small interest in the company since the original Kia/Ford partnership in 1986. Today, Hyundai’s ownership has been diluted to less than a third of the total stock shares.

Vital Kia Motors Corporation Data

Founded: Seoul, South Korea (1944)
Current headquarters: Seoul, South Korea
Yearly production: 1,466,059 vehicles (2012)
Employees: ~42,000
Owner: Publicly traded

Kia Motors Corporation Contact Information

North America

Phone: 800.333.4542

JD Laukkonen

JD Laukkonen turned wrenches in the north end of Seattle for a decade, so he's no stranger to the inner workings of modern automobiles. He has worked as a freelance writer since closing his shop in 2007, and he currently covers automotive technology for

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