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RYAN BEENE

Is Kia’s K9 flagship closer to U.S. showrooms?

Ryan Beene is a reporter for Automotive News.

LOS ANGELES -- Another piece of evidence suggests that Kia is likely to bring its K9 flagship sedan to the United States.

A photo of an uncamouflaged K9 driving on an Orange County, Calif., roadway hit my Twitter feed this morning, thanks to @scarboy6693 and @KMA_PR’s retweet.

You can find my retweet of the photo here.

The rear three-quarter shot shows the sedan with California plates marked with the vertical “DST,” meaning the vehicle is registered to a car company.

Officially, Kia is still evaluating the K9 for the United States, Kia spokesman James Hope said.

“It’s not uncommon for us to receive cars for evaluation,” said Hope, who declined to confirm whether the car was Kia’s because he hadn’t seen it.

Also visible in the photo is the “3.8” badging for the 3.8-liter V-6 engine from the Hyundai-Kia arsenal that powers the car.

Big rims, an almost fastbacklike C-pillar and wide stance make the car look at home in sunny SoCal.

Photo credit: Twitter

Whether American buyers will agree is another matter.

Kia has made great strides by building a strong formula of design, quality and value.

The question that Kia Motors America executives must answer before deciding to sell the K9 in the United States: Will the car be a successful halo that complements its lineup or an overreach for a brand squarely in the mass market?

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