SEOUL - Kia will open a E17 million European design center in Germany in 2007.
The center in Frankfurt will be Kia's first to be operated independently of its parent company, Hyundai.
"Building a separate design center in Europe is an important step to further differentiate Kia's product range from Hyundai and our competitors," said Kim Yong-Hwan, Kia's senior executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Kia executives said the center will support the automaker's goal of designing vehicles with styling and performance in tune with the demands of European customers.
Europe is now Kia's largest export market.
The design center will be in a new E57 million European headquarters that Kia plans to open in March 2007.
The 11-story building is under construction next to the Frankfurt Messe exhibition complex, where the biennial IAA is staged.
Kia will initially staff the center with 35 design employees and expects that to rise to 47 by 2010, Kia spokesman Michael Choo said.
Kia's new headquarters will house its European sales and marketing operations, a sales academy, technical service center and the company's European information technology hub.
About 350 staff will work there.
Kia has a joint European research and development center with Hyundai in Rüsselsheim. Kia's current European headquarters is in Eschborn, near Frankfurt.
Kia said its European sales jumped 62 percent during the first six months of 2005, to 153,278 units from 94,694 during January through June of 2004.
Kia's target is 336,380 sales in Europe this year, up 53.4 percent from 2004.
Kia includes Russia and the former Soviet republics in its European sales figures.