We discover how Kia Motors has revolutionised design and made it their key strength
The Automotive world undergoing a paradigm shift. Certain manufacturers are chasing a thousand horsepower derived from clean energy while others are banking on AI for the future. However, this marque from South Korea is engaged in something totally different – building a global brand identity that revolves around the principles of design. This strategy sure warrants serious food for thought. Why is design the key focus for Kia Motors? For Kia, great design is one of the primary reasons for their success. After all, the design is what turns people’s heads and motivates them to seek more information on the product. We no longer live in an era where the mere functionality of nuts and bolts is the sole thing that matters. Cars have evolved into beautiful examples of artwork, and design and styling hold the power to emotionally entice potential buyers. And making design their key strength has worked wonders for Kia. They have gone from being just a reliable and family car brand to winning multiple design awards and rivalling the big boys from Germany. As Kia Motors plans to enter the Indian market in the second half of 2019, we were very curious and set out to learn about the finer aspects of Kia Design and how the brand is setting up the groundwork for their upcoming mid-SUV. So, here are a few key points about Kia Motors and how they intend to pursue their goal of creating dream cars using innovative design strategies.
Kia design revolves around simple ideas
Kia’s design philosophy revolves around the idea of ‘the simplicity of a straight line’. Of course, the award-winning Kia cars aren’t comprised merely of straight lines, but it’s all about adapting the fascinating aspects of a straight line to create a beautiful design. Straight lines represent simplicity, precision and clarity, and also reflect the attitude and vision of Kia designers, which is to create timeless designs, inspired by global cultural trends. All Kia cars also sport the trademark ‘Tiger Nose’ grille. The grille is incredibly variable – lower in the Stinger, narrower in the Picanto, muscular in the Sportage and wider in the Optima. It’s clear that the grille sports an infinite power of adaptability and creativity. It was birthed from the need to give Kia’s cars a distinct, recognisable face – something like the split kidney grilles in BMWs or Bugatti’s horse-collar design. It brings consistency to the Kia portfolio and allows for their cars to be immediately recognised from afar. Kia’s design philosophies aren’t restricted to styling only. They’re also reflected in the Kia cars’ aerodynamics and cabin layouts. Take the Stinger for example – it’s a real cohesive design, but little elements enhance the way it cuts through the air. The fastback roof was intentionally kept low to enhance its aerofoil shape (think aeroplane wing), and slight ducktail on the boot reduces lift to enhance high-speed stability. Its cabin has been intelligently laid out to focus on smart ergonomics while looking sleek and upmarket. We can expect the same design philosophy to be reflected in the mid-SUV as well. India loves SUVs and its proportions coupled with Kia’s fascinating design and technical strategies, hold the power to produce a standout product.
Global design studios
Kia’s design is part of global research and because the design also needs to be adapted to and aligned with regional sensibilities. Kia is a pioneer in studying trending designs and incorporating them into their cars in a functional manner. Its main design studio is located in Namyang, South Korea, while the satellite design centres are located in Irvine, Frankfurt and Tokyo These centres focus on research, concept development, sketching, clay modelling, ergonomics and surface development. But what sets apart the home turf in South Korea is its sheer size and cutting-edge technology. The Namyang Design centre spans over 3.3 million square metres with facilities for everything from planning and conceptualising to bringing Kia designs to life. It also has a design and development centre for powertrains with plenty of test tracks. At the climatic testing centre, engineers can play god and make it rain or snow at will. The highlight of this R&D and design centre, though, is the USD 45 million aero-acoustic wind tunnel. Spanning 8.4 metres, the fan generates wind speeds of up to 200kmph and is acoustically damped in order to measure wind noise around the door mirrors and A-pillars. The satellite design studios in Frankfurt and Orange County, California also cover the entire process of car design ranging from design planning and design conceptualisation to styling, modelling and colour and material development. These centres analyse global trends and explore the distinct lifestyles in local markets around the world, which will be crucial while developing the mid-SUV for India. The centre in Germany is the first design facility that is independent of sister company Hyundai and is a bold step forward in Kia establishing itself as an individual and influential brand. It did, after all, give us the Stinger. Meanwhile, the California design centre has played a vital role in carving the brand’s success story in the USA.
A SIMPLE YET IMPACTFUL DESIGN PHILOSOPHY, THE best designers and engineers in the field, and state-of-the-art design and testing facilities across the globe – that’s the story behind every Kia car that has been rolled out in the past decade. So, what does this prowess translate into? Multiple awards, of course. Lots of them. The trio of Ceed, Ceed Sportswagon and
Proceed was Kia’s second consecutive design-award hat trick at the Red Dot Design Awards. The cars triumphed over thousands of other products in the Product Design category and were favoured the most by a jury of 40 international design experts, design professors and journalists. Last year’s hat-trick was bagged by the Stinger, Stonic and the Picanto while the trend was started in 2009 when the Soul urban crossover won it for the first time ever for Kia. Criteria such as ergonomics, quality, emotional appeal and functionality are analysed by the international jury before awarding the nominated product with a Red Dot Design Award. Year on year, Kia has been pioneering these qualities and has been bagging top honour at these awards. It now holds 24 Red Dot Design awards, highest for any manufacturer ever! And the success story has no boundaries, as the marque has been winning trophies at the iF design awards as well.
Promising plans for India
It’s an established fact that Kia is on top of their game globally. Unsurprisingly, India is a unique market where cars at the lower end of the pricing spectrum drive mass volume sales. But Kia isn’t worried about that either. They don’t distinguish their design philosophy for different segments of cars. Anyone who buys a Kia deserves a taste of the brand’s excellence. Thankfully Kia has already pulled the trigger in the right direction by bringing in an SUV to India, a segment growing in popularity across the country. As Kia opens a new chapter in India with its USD 1.1 billion manufacturing facility in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh, we anticipate an exciting journey. With world-class design centres holding the power to surprise and a globally renowned design team conceptualising the mid-SUV out of local research, a new and enthralling chapter in the Indian automotive space has just begun and we cannot wait for a Kia to be seen on our roads.