There’s little doubt that Kia’s Peter Schreyer is a creative man. I mean, as chief design officer, he turned a brand that was about as bland as they come into one that is regularly winning vehicle design awards – and he did it just a few years. But as much success as he’s had with the Kia brand, the recent news of the Kia GT concept becoming a reality seems like a case of the Kia brass putting a little too much faith in their lead designer.
If you aren’t familiar with the Kia GT, it doesn’t look anything like what you naturally picture when Kia comes to mind. The GT is a sports car, with sleek lines, a luxurious interior and a strong powertrain that includes a 3.3-liter turbocharged V-6.
While it already seems like a stretch for Kia to make a vehicle like this work, the skepticism reaches new heights when you hear the brands that Kia is targeting as competition. Kia wants the GT to take on the Porsche Panamera and the Audi A7. Yes, the brand that used to make cars that were considered the cheap version of a Hyundai is now going to try taking on Porsche and Audi. Yikes.
To better understand Kia’s confidence, we only have to look at Schreyer himself. Where was he prior to getting the job at Kia? Yep – Audi. One of Schreyer’s claims to fame was his design contributions on the popular Audi TT. In 2006, Car Design News stroked Schreyer’s ego by referring to the Audi TT design as one of the “most influential automotive designs in recent times.”
So now as lead designer at Kia, Schreyer is going for it, taking on his old company (and Porsche) head-to-head. You can see where the strategy is coming from – kind of – as what Schreyer brought to the table with the tiger nose design of Kia vehicles has certainly worked. But it’s worked in Kia’s wheelhouse, which is affordable vehicles.
To foreshadow the troubles that the GT might have, we only need to look as far as the Kia K900 that was released earlier this year. The K900 was marketed as a luxury Kia with a $60,000 price tag. But not surprisingly, almost no one is buying it. Kia has sold only 1,050 of the K900s, despite the Morpheus Super Bowl ad. The car that almost was named after a dog is selling like one.
You see, sometimes a brand just is what it is. No one wants to pay top dollar for a Kia, even if the vehicle itself may be deserving. There are too many established brands in these segments for one with a checkered past to enter, promise new results, and sell.
The ground that Schreyer has helped Kia gain in the market truly is commendable. But Kia needs to appreciate how far it has come, and stick with what it knows. Expect the GT to have much the same success as the K900 – which is almost none.