Kia BUZZ recently set down with the all-new Picanto product manager in Kia’s head office and here’s what he had to say about the third-generation Picanto that’s going to shatter people’s perceptions on what to expect from compact A-segment vehicles.
SUN-HO LEE: Hello! My name is Sun-ho Lee. I’ve been working in the Overseas Product Team for six years overseeing the development of Picanto, and its process from development to production.
KIA BUZZ: Could you give us a brief description of the role of the product developer?
LEE: A product developer participates in the development process from the initial product development stages of planning to selection of the right product for the market, considering the revenue for the market to determine the quantity and price, powertrain, option, design and color. The role requires an all-time player in planning, decision-making, configuration and production.
BUZZ: What was the particular concept for the 2nd generation Picanto, in your opinion? For instance, how was it decided to differentiate the new Picanto from the old one?
LEE: The first generation Picanto was considered revolutionary when it was released in 2004. Interestingly, the Picanto was designed to allow room for up to five people, which was unusual for an A-segment vehicle. Such strengths enabled the Picanto to do well over the past seven years in the market. However, the lack of features and specifications of the Picanto, as well as its safety features remained its weak points. Such weaknesses were a result of placing heavier focus on the economic factor, and I’m happy to report that the new Picanto has raised the bar for the usual expectations giving the segment new meaning. While it is true that premium A-segment vehicles such as the Toyota IQ, Fiat 500 and Smart ForTwo exist, currently there are no standard A-segment vehicles that have been modeled on premium ones. The Picanto’s new slogan, “All in smAll”, was created to tell the consumers that ordinary consumers are now able to buy premium quality specifications at an affordable price. In this way, the new Picanto aims to kill two birds with one stone, with its affordability and premium quality.
BUZZ: Creativity is very much needed when developing new products. Where does inspiration come from?
LEE: It is a difficult question. I think responsibility and sincerity are necessary characteristics for a product manager not only because of creativity but also because the understanding of the market is essential. To produce a unique product, a creative spirit to not miss the details of daily life is also required. The vanity mirror, for instance, was an option inspired from mirrors from superstars’ waiting rooms on TV. In other words, even a scene from the TV was not to be missed, leading to the attitude to study and resulting in a new feature.
BUZZ: A considerable amount of research time and development costs were invested in developing the Picanto. What was the special aspect that Picanto wishes to show in particular?
LEE: One of the most outstanding qualities of the new Picanto is also the element of which we are most fond. The features that we particularly like include the LED package, grip-type outside door handle and color package. Despite the criticism that LED and grip handles are not appropriate for A-segment vehicles, we have included them to portray the image of the next generation A-segment vehicles. These features have been included after a number of in-depth discussions with the related sectors. Moreover, the color package is something that we have agonized long and hard over with the color team at Kia. Thanks to the collaboration and cooperation, we were very pleased to introduce a various color palette of orange, gold and special packs to our customers.
BUZZ: Awareness of environmental issues has grown worldwide. The automobile business is also introducing various services to cope with this trend. Please give a brief introduction about the ‘eco-driving’ technology available in the Picanto.
LEE: In order to produce an eco-friendlier vehicle, the basic requirement is to have a reduced emission level. It should also have improved fuel economy and reduce idling to be called an environment-friendly vehicle. Therefore, as a part of ‘eco-driving’ technology, the second generation Picanto recorded highly improved emission rates (lowest of CO2 90g) and by applying ISG (Idle Stop & Go) the drivers will be able to enjoy economic and environment-friendlier driving. (ISG option is only available in EU)
BUZZ: The Picanto has always shown high sales rates since the original model’s release. What are the elements behind its popularity?
LEE: Cute design, good level of driving performance and notable gasoline mileage would be the secrets.
BUZZ: Female drivers are particularly interested to Picanto because of its unique and contemporary design. Were female drivers considered from the initial stage? Are there any options that female drivers would especially enjoy?
LEE: The urban package for the European market was developed with female drivers in mind. Since female drivers tend to prefer convenient features, various features have been developed accordingly. More specifically, such features include rear parking assistance sensor, heated steering wheel, safety power windows, safety sunroof, electric folding mirrors, one-touch open cup holder, button start smart key, accessory smart key, seat warmer, auto-light control with escort and welcome functions and large mirror with light on the sun visor. On top of that, the exterior design reflects a masculine image, enabling the Picanto to appeal to all customers, regardless of their sex.
BUZZ: Many consumers are concerned about crash safety in A-segment vehicles. Could you comment on that?
LEE: The new Picanto has been significantly strengthened in terms of safety. In order to ease the anxiety of the customers regarding safety, curtain airbags have been added onto the driver’s seat, passenger seat and on the sides, as well as an additional knee airbag. Moreover, we have developed features to assure the driver’s safety and security, by providing an active head rest, ESC, VSM, ESS and security indicator. (Knee airbag option is only available in EU)
BUZZ: Engine performance of sub-compact models is one of the aspects consumers consider seriously before their purchase. Could you provide us with some details of the new Picanto in this aspect?
LEE: The second generation Picanto has installed a Kappa engine that improved maximum 25 horsepower than before, maximum 24g improved CO2. We were also able to improve torque performance, which might have been a source of complaints among small cars. Also, an eco-friendly CO2 engine, Bi-fuel LPI and FFV engine, which allows for tax incentives for the Brazilian market were developed to meet the diverse needs of consumers.
BUZZ: What are the future plans? And what is a “good car” from an automobile product developer’s point of view?
LEE: A good car? As in, a car with eye-catching design and good sales record?! I would like to showcase the excellence of the new Picanto by presenting it in major overseas motor shows and events. I am currently doing the last-minute inspection for a successful launch. I hope your bloggers like it!
Editors’ note: Options might vary by region or country.