Corporate / Product
Congratulations, Australia! August 17th, 2010
Hello. My name is D.K. Lim of the Overseas Product Team and I am in charge of Kia powertrains as well as our large passenger cars and RVs.
Generally, the ride and handling of our new cars have been developed to suit the specific road conditions, environment and driving characteristics of various regions of the world.
In other words, a Sportage sold in Europe will look pretty much the same as a Sportage in the US or Korea. However, drivers may feel some difference once they get behind the wheel.
Roads in European countries like Belgium tend to have rough surfaces and are full of curves while drivers there enjoy high speeds. As such, European drivers prefer vehicles that deliver a hard ride and immediate response. In contrast, the US mostly has wide and long-stretching roads that are well paved. Long-haul driving is also common in the US. That’s why American drivers look for riding comfort and neutral handling. Korean drivers have similar preferences as their US counterparts. That said, not all drivers fit these descriptions. Unlike other European countries, the emphasis in the UK on ride and handling is rather different. Because the UK has more unpaved roads than other parts of Europe and leans towards sporty driving, Kia cars sold in the UK have different ride and handling qualities than those sold in other European countries.
Australia, however, presents a tricky situation.
In some ways, the vast continent appears to have similarities with the US. However, Australia is also similar to Europe due to its unpaved roads, long-haul driving and unique bitumen paving.
For that reason, some Kia cars have the same ride and handling characteristics as those sold in the US while others share the same qualities as cars sold in Europe.
But things will be different from now on.
In October, the Kia Forte (known as Cerato in some regions) 5-door will debut in Australia where hatchbacks form the mainstream in the C-segment. The Australian launch of Kia’s rising star, the all-new Sportage, is also in October. Kia’s Australian sales subsidiary put in a request for the Forte (sedan, KOUP and 5-door) and Sportage to have their ride and handling tailored to Australian needs. About one million vehicles are sold annually in Australia, which is rather low considering the huge land mass (Annual car sales volume is also one million in Korea). Nevertheless, the Overseas Product Team and the Vehicle Testing Team of our R&D center in Korea decided to accept the request given the strong determination of the Australian sales subsidiary to achieve a dramatic brand transformation based on high expectations for the Forte 5-door and Sportage. Members of the two teams traveled to Australia and went on an extended tour around the country with local automobile journalists and local Kia personnel. The cars taken on the tour were the Sportage 2.0 (gasoline 2WD, diesel 4WD), Forte 2.0 and of course several competing models.
During our tour, we experienced all the road conditions in Australia, from urban driving, highways and country roads to unpaved roads, bitumen roads, winding lanes and deserts.
It was a grueling schedule with extensive driving every day, standing meetings every two hours, and evening wrap-up sessions. But everyone enthusiastically contributed their views.
On the last day, we reached a consensus on the best ride and handling for Australia and drew up a master development schedule. It marked the end of a review, development and application process based on organic cooperation between the product, research and Australian sales units.
For many months thereafter, the three units exchanged opinions and proceeded with sample development, installation, review and corrections. Eventually, we developed a Forte and Sportage with chassis and suspension characteristics optimized for Australia. These were Kia’s first cars tuned specifically for the Australian market.
The Forte and Sportage specially developed for Australia will arrive at local Australian dealerships in October.