Kia is aiming to create a performance sub-brand that would emulate the success of Mercedes AMG and BMW M – and the cars could be in showrooms as early as next year.
The Korean firm is attempting to push its brand forward after a prolonged period of new model launches and its European bosses believe performance cars are the way to do it.
Benny Oeyen, vice president for marketing and product planning at Kia Motors Europe, spoke exclusively to Autoblog at the Frankfurt Motor Show.
He revealed the firm is currently weighing up the pros and cons of building performance cars or a coupe to emulate the GT concept unveiled at the show.
He said: "Seven or eight years ago our products were basic transportation providers for getting from A to B in economical ways and at very cheap prices.
"Our products have now gone up, but our brand image hasn't moved so quickly. I could absolutely see a sub-Kia brand, a sporty GTI one, that would help change this.
"To enhance the brand you can do three things: the quickest is performance versions of current models; second, we could produce a performance stylish sedan or coupe like the GT concept; and thirdly we could do a convertible. We're looking at all of these. We want to put some spice into the Kia soup right now and it's my priority."
"I don't want over-the-top models that look like they have just come out of a tuner's shop," he said. "Performance can be too ostentatious and in your face – that's not good. We want to do it more subtly but still have good performance. They need to be hot hatches people can use as a daily car."
Likely to get the performance treatment first is the Cee'd followed by a sporty Rio, a car Oeyen believes would be "very cool".
"I think the manufacturers that have done performance the best are Mercedes with AMG and BMW with M," explained Oeyen. "That is truly branded, it means something and there is a philosophy behind it. This is ultimately the level we'd like to achieve."
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