DETROIT - The new head of Kia's U.S. sales arm admits he is no expert on the U.S. market. But he is sure about one thing: The Kia and Hyundai brands should stay separate.
'Why throw away a brand that is responsible for half of our U.S. volume?' said Ahn Byung-Mo, who was named president of Kia Motors America Inc. Jan. 5.
South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co., the new owner of Kia Motors Corp., has said it will keep the Kia and Hyundai brands separate in the United States. Ahn's appointment begins the integration of Hyundai executives into Kia's operations.
Ahn had headed the export business division of Hyundai Precision & Industry Co. He was responsible for European and Russian automotive markets. He replaces CEO W.K. Kim, who becomes a senior executive vice president.
Ahn said Hyundai will be able to bolster Kia's U.S. strengths. He cited sales, marketing, distribution and parts and service. Ahn attended the Detroit auto show this month.
Kia, which sold 82,893 vehicles in the United States last year, plans to boost sales by adding products.
Next year, three arrivals are planned: the Sedona minivan; a subcompact code-named the B car; and a V-6 powered, stretched version of the Sportage sport-utility.
'But with the resources of Hyundai, that could be accelerated,' said Dick Macedo, head of Kia's U.S. marketing operations.