SEOUL -- Kia Motors Corp. is attempting a new premium line in its South Korean home market with the arrival of its slick Stinger GT.
A successor to the K900 top-tier sedan will arrive next year to flesh out the newly created product tier.
Kia says it won't pursue the strategy overseas. But its moves in the home market underscore the budget brand's upward mobility and growing confidence.
The new line of premium products will sit atop the portfolio here and will gradually grow beyond the Stinger and the K900 successor, Kia says.
Kim Chang-sik, executive vice president in charge of domestic sales, announced the new strategy while unveiling the Stinger to the home audience at the Seoul auto show this month.
"Building on our global competitiveness in quality, design and brand, we at Kia Motors plan to roll out our premium line starting with Stinger," Kim said. "Our Kia Motors premium lineup refers to vehicles with rear-wheel drive, optimizing the essence of a vehicle -- that is, driving performance.
"We aim to deliver an unrivaled premium that only Kia Motors can achieve," he said.
Those might seem like bold words to an American audience, which still largely sees Kia as a value entry brand. But they resonate better in South Korea, where Kia is the No. 2 player.
The premium line will be a third sales tier for Kia in the South Korean market, although the new grouping will continue to be retailed under the Kia brand.
But even in the U.S., there is momentum to support the upmarket climb.
Kia now has a higher average U.S. transaction price than its sibling Hyundai brand, according to Kelley Blue Book data. Hyundai is supposed to be positioned one rung higher than Kia. Hyundai's transaction price was down 2.7 percent in March, while Kia's was up 2.6 percent.
Last year, Kia overtook Porsche to lead the industry in J.D. Power's annual report card on initial vehicle quality, the first time in 27 years a nonpremium brand has topped the list. This year, Kia jumped to 11th in J.D. Power's measure of longer-term quality, its vehicle dependability study. Kia rose from below average to join a stratus occupied by Lincoln and Jaguar.
At the Seoul show, Kim cited the J.D. Power feedback, along with several design awards, as proof of Kia's coming of age. The Stinger was introduced on stage with a fast-paced video depicting the sporty luxury hatchback doing doughnuts and drifting through an urban city-scape.
The base offering will be a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder unit. The optional engine will be a new 3.3-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 first introduced in the Genesis G90.