28 April 2005

Korean car maker Kia is heading for huge expansion that could lead to it exporting as many as one million cars this year. In the UK alone, Kia is hoping to treble 2004’s sales in the next five years, aiming for around 100,000 UK registrations in 2009, which is more than Honda or Nissan managed last year.

And one of the new models that should help the company hit its ambitious target is this, the all-new Kia Rio. On sale in October, the Rio will be sold as a five-door hatch in the UK, while other markets also get a saloon. Taller and wider than the outgoing car (though noticeably shorter) with a 90mm longer wheelbase, the new Rio will have just two equipment levels, and three new engines. The all-new 1.4-litre unit is good for 96bhp, and the 1.6 108bhp, while diesel comes in the form of a 101bhp 1.5-litre CRDi. Kia bosses say they see Europe as their ‘second home market’, a pledge backed by a new factory being built in Slovakia. This new facility will be dedicated to building Kia’s new Golf-rivalling medium car range, which will be sold exclusively in Europe from early 2007 as part of a total of 15 new models between now and 2010. After disappointing recent results for the Sedona and Picanto, Kia is also aiming to make sure its cars all gain a five-star EuroNCAP rating.

Kia exported 740,000 vehicles in 2004 - a 43 per cent increase over the previous year. By 2010 Kia should be selling two million cars a year, up from 1.1million today. Kia is also keen to get into Hybrid and Fuel Cell technology. It says it will be building 10,000 Fuel Cell vehicles by 2010.

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