South Korean automaker Kia is a Cinderella story.

When the automaker entered the US in 1994, its cars received poor reviews and were mostly seen as low-cost brands.

Now, Kia wins awards and is more profitable than its peers. US sales have risen from about 12,000 in 1994 to nearly 700,000 in 2022.

“We set a record in 2022,” said Steve Center, Kia America’s chief operating officer, adding that the first half of 2023 will set another sales record. “We’ve had incredible quality recognition from JD Power. More vehicles have won ICS awards this year than any other brand. So it’s a combination of everything.”

It is the result of years of investment and research, with some key employees coming from renowned luxury and performance brands such as BMW and audi.

“It’s like a crazy shift from a brand where most people would say ‘I’ve never heard of it’ or ‘I’ve only seen those on the side of the road’ to ‘I wish it was in my driveway,'” Edmunds said Ivan Drury, Senior Director of Insights.

But Kia also faces challenges: It and sister brand Hyundai are being sued by multiple cities over a series of thefts, the two brands had to recall more than 91,000 vehicles in August over fire risks, and it was excluded from the Outside of some federal EV tax credits, since it doesn’t currently make EVs in the U.S.

Moreover, it faces an uphill battle to capture US EV market share

tesla Still dominates the EV market with around 60% share. All other automakers had single-digit shares. But Kia believes it can go electric not just with combustion engine technology.

“We have time and perseverance,” Center said. “We have grit, and we’re going to make it happen. With bigger lines, fresher lines, and more exciting lines. That’s our goal. That’s our promise.”

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