SEOUL -- Kia Motors Corp. has promoted chief designer Peter Schreyer to the role of president, the first foreigner to attain the position at the company, as the South Korean automaker seeks to elevate its global profile.
The appointment last week makes Frankfurt-based Schreyer, who remains chief design officer, one of three presidents at the company. Schreyer, a German, was hired from Volkswagen AG in 2006.
"The promotion shows Kia's key focus areas shifting from production and cost efficiency, which were traditionally considered more important, to design and research and development," said Shin Chung Kwan, an analyst at KB Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul. "It also symbolizes Kia's urge to advance as a global company -- showing a foreigner could make it to one of the top positions."
Kia and Hyundai Motor are stepping up efforts to move upscale and away from their reputations as builders of cheap, utilitarian cars. Schreyer, the designer of the Audi TT Coupe, was hired to overhaul Kia's lineup and allow the automaker to charge more for its models.
"We should not have let him go," Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech told Automotive News in November.
Schreyer, 59, has revised Kia's sedan lineup. His team introduced a common front shape with the "tiger-nose" grille for Kia models in 2007. It is now featured on almost all the company's vehicles, including the Optima, the revamped Sorento crossover, the Soul crossover and the Forte compact.
In March, Schreyer said: "I wanted to give Kia a character and a family feel. If you come to a country and you see a Kia, you should recognize it immediately like you recognize a BMW or Mercedes immediately."
-- Bloomberg, Reuters and David Phillips