A red 2017 Kia Forte is shown parked outside of a used Kia dealership.

Kia Trivia: Lightning Round

What draws you to a used Kia dealership? Is it models like the award-winning Telluride and its modern design, innovative technologies, and versatile cabin? Or is it knowing you can get behind the wheel of a fun-filled SUV like the Soul, a sophisticated minivan like the Carnival, or a renowned hybrid like the Sorento or Sportage?

Whatever leads you to the Kia lineup, you aren’t alone. Kia’s presence in America has skyrocketed over the years, with the automaker earning dozens of awards for its ingenuity and keen focus on delivering well-equipped models that are engaging, stylish, fun to drive, and surprisingly affordable. These characteristics have ignited a newfound interest in Kia, leading to widespread curiosity about the brand and its impact on the industry. So let’s satiate that curiosity with a quick round of Kia trivia that instills even more pride when you invest in the Kia brand.

#1: The Oldest Automaker in South Korea

Opening its doors as Kyungsung Precision Industry in 1944, Kia is the oldest automaker in South Korea. The company didn’t get its start building cars but made history by producing the first domestic bicycle in Korea in the early 1950s. A few years later, the business rebranded as Kia Industries, signing partnership agreements with Honda to build small motorcycles and Mazda to build trucks and cars. These partnerships gave Kia a solid foundation in the industry as it opened its first assembly plant in 1973, the future location of Kia’s first internal combustion engine and its first automobile, the Brisa.

#2: Ford Helped Kia Regain Its Footing

Kia’s growing success in the 1970s came to a halt in 1980 when Chun Doo-hwan became the new military dictator of South Korea after a coup. In power until 1988, Doo-hwan forced Kia to stop production of the Brisa, Fiat 132, and Peugeot 604. Instead, the automaker was tasked with building light-duty trucks for the military.

By 1986, Kia’s production output was barely two dozen sedans, but fortunately, there was hope on the horizon. Ford proposed a partnership that kept Kia in business by building Mazda-based models to reposition itself in the global market. As production numbers climbed to over 90,000 units in 1987, Kia slowly rebuilt and, by 1992, established itself on American soil with its first Kia-branded models: the Sephia and Sportage.

A blue 2020 Kia Sportage is shown from the rear being loaded with a surfboard.

#3: A Bittersweet Bankruptcy

The Asian Financial Crisis hit South Korea hard in the late 1990s, forcing Kia into a financial hole of $10 million in debt. The company and its Asia Motors affiliate were put up for auction, with many assuming Ford would win the bid since it already owned shares in Kia. However, Ford’s initial offer was lower than the minimum share price for Asia Motors, resulting in the company’s disqualification from the auction. The next highest bidder was the Hyundai Motor Company.

#4: America’s Best Warranty

Hyundai’s sales were slipping in America when the company purchased Kia in 1998. Despite declining sales, Hyundai saw Kia as an opportunity to rebuild its reputation in America and started by giving Americans a better reason to invest in the brand. This inspired Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, which showcased the automaker’s confidence in its lineup. In turn, drivers responded in kind, with Kia and Hyundai sales increasing as the automakers consistently improved their models to offer broader appeal, more innovative technologies, and sophisticated designs.

#5: Hiring the Best

By the new millennium, Kia was back on its feet and set its focus on building its presence in the European market. Doing that meant hiring the best in the business, leading the company to Peter Schreyer. Renowned for his work designing the revolutionary Audi TT, the German automobile designer immediately set out to differentiate Kia so that every model was instantly recognizable. He developed the Tiger Nose grille, an expressive three-dimensional design that’s exclusively Kia. Since introducing the design, Schreyer has become integral to the company, climbing the ladder as President and Chief Design Officer in 2013 and Hyundai Motor Group’s Executive Design Advisor in 2022.

#6: The Largest Factory in the World

Kia has the honor of running the largest automobile plant in the world at its Ulsan Plant in South Korea. The facility is astronomical, stretching nearly six miles with five factories in one centralized location. Ulsan is truly the heart of the automotive industry in Korea, offering complete vehicle production with its Engine and Transmission Plant, Road and Collision Test Facility, and a host of shops like the welding shop with its automated robotic welding line. The facility even has a track for test drives, a quality control center, and an export shipment dock.

With five factories, the Ulsan plant rolls one vehicle off the production line every ten seconds. The automated systems and advanced technologies play an integral role in this, but not more than the 34,000 employees that are the heart and soul of the facility. Kia recognizes as much, ensuring Ulsan employees enjoy their work and the environment with 24 on-site restaurants that provide complimentary lunches, a 1,000-room dormitory for commuters, and awe-inspiring facilities that include nearly 600,000 trees and stunning landscaping. As of 2016, the plant operated five days a week and closed for one week every summer, giving employees plenty of opportunities to lead balanced and fulfilling lives.

A black 2021 Kia Telluride is shown driving on an open road.

#7: Triple Crown Automotive Award Winner

Kia’s ongoing success in the American market reached new heights in 2020 when the automaker introduced the Telluride. As the largest SUV in the Kia lineup, the Telluride made a lasting first impression with its sophisticated design, engaging driving demeanor, innovative technologies, and exceptional versatility. Kia nailed every detail with the Telluride, and the industry responded in kind.

The Telluride made history when it won the industry’s “Triple Crown,” a new feat yet to be accomplished by an SUV. The revolutionary Telluride was named the 2019 North American Car of the Year (NACTOY), the MotorTrend SUV of the Year, and Car and Driver 10Best. The Telluride’s prestigious honors include numerous others and “Best Of” titles, making it the most awarded in Kia history and adding to its popularity as one of the automaker’s top sellers.

#8: A History of Accolades

The Telluride isn’t the only award-winning model in the Kia lineup. Over the last decade, Kia’s diligence in building reliable and well-equipped cars has been rewarded with widespread praise throughout the industry. This praise runs the gamut from the 2020 World Car of the Year title to the EV6’s North American Utility Vehicle of the Year honor. Kia also took home the most model-level titles from J.D. Power’s 2023 United States ALG Residual Value Awards. These honors reflect Kia’s commitment to exceeding expectations with every model, from the Soul, Sportage, and Seltos to the Telluride.

#9: A Worthwhile and Meaningful Investment

Kia hasn’t lost sight of its beginnings or the ebb and flow of failures and successes that have defined its history. Instead, Kia remains humble and operates with a “pay it forward” mentality that makes investing in a Kia car or SUV worthwhile and meaningful. For example, Kia doesn’t solely build vehicles but works toward building a better and more inclusive culture. To do so, the company is dedicated to community outreach initiatives like Families Forward, Working Wardrobes Military Spouses, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, HomeAid OC, and dozens of other local organizations that positively impact communities across North America and beyond.