RICK KRANZ

Kia's luxury K9 seems bound, eventually, for U.S.

The K9 will complete Kia's K series of cars, which includes the K5, which is sold as the Optima, and the K7, which will be marketed next year in the United States as the Cadenza.
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

DETROIT -- Kia Motors Corp. has taken the wraps off a sporty rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan that will go on sale this spring in Korea.

The car will be the biggest, most luxurious car ever produced by the Korean automaker. The car is expected to be aimed at BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Following Kia's pattern of alphanumeric names, the car will be called the K9 in the Korean market but will have a different name elsewhere. Export markets will be announced this year.

My view: It's just a matter of time until the car rolls into U.S. showrooms, probably in 2014.

The K9 will complete Kia's K series of cars, which includes the K5, which is sold as the Optima, and the K7, which will be marketed next year in the United States as the Cadenza.

Photographs of the K9, Kia's first rear-wheel-drive model, were released today, but were accompanied by few details. The K9 will share a platform with the Hyundai Genesis and Equus sedans.

Previously, Kia referred to the K9 under the code name "KH."

The K9 is the latest evolution of the design direction signaled by the "tiger-nose" radiator grille on Kia's vehicles, the company said.

James Hope, a spokesman for Kia Motors America, said in an e-mail that the company "is still evaluating if it will sell the K9 in the U.S. market." But as I wrote this month, Kia seems to be prepping the United States for the brand's first luxury sedan, one auto show at a time.

The sporty-looking GT concept is touring America's premier shows during the first four months of this year. Last November it was at the Los Angeles auto show. The GT has many of the styling cues that can be seen on the K9.

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