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Kia to Debut New Model in New York

The new vehicle, along with the upcoming Soul CUV, will give the South Korean auto maker its own version of Scion, its top U.S. official says.

DETROIT – Kia Motors America will take the wraps off an all-new model at the New York auto show in March, the auto maker’s top executive tells Ward’s.

“You’ll see something (based) off (the) Spectra at New York,” KMA President Len Hunt says during an interview at the North American International Auto Show here in reference to the auto maker’s C-platform sedan.

Hunt declines to divulge further details about the new addition, but says the model, along with the upcoming Soul cross/utility vehicle due in the U.S. early next year, will be akin to a youth brand of sorts for the South Korean auto maker.

“We’re kind of pitching (the) Soul and this (new vehicle) I’m not supposed to talk about almost like Scion,” he says of Toyota Motor Corp.’s U.S.-only brand aimed at Generation Y buyers.

Hunt says the two vehicles will correlate in much the same way Scion’s original xB CUV and now-discontinued xA subcompact did.

“What we’ve noticed is Kia is being treated as a new brand, a challenger brand, like Scion,” he says. “We have (an advantage that) we’ve been here for 14 years. So your dad didn’t drive a Kia; your dad probably drove a Toyota.”

Kia’s next big step in the U.S. is to move beyond “value” and “practical,” Hunt says. The auto maker hopes a focus on design, to be seen in the Soul CUV and upcoming new model, will do the trick.

Hunt says it’s possible Kia will get a small coupe for the U.S., as will sister brand Hyundai with a model based on the Veloster concept car.

The Kee coupe concept unveiled at the Detroit show initially was intended as a design study, with cues such as the front end to appear in the next-generation Spectra due next year, likely as a ’10 model.

“But after we saw it, we thought we’d really like a sports car, “ Hunt says, adding Kia is “having a very good look” at a production small coupe.

One model Kia is not considering bringing to the U.S. is the Cee’d compact hatchback sold in Europe.

By way of example, Hunt uses two models from his former employer, Volkswagen AG.

“As Europe is to the Golf, America is to the Jetta,” he says in explaining regional preferences for hatchbacks in Europe and sedans in the U.S.

“My father owns (a Cee’d),” says Hunt, a native Brit. “He’d never dream of driving a Spectra.”

Hunt credits cars for driving Kia’s record U.S. sales results in 2007. With the exception of the large Amanti sedan, all Kia cars posted year-over-year increases.

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