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Kia to Enter Full-Size Luxury Market with Flagship Sedan

Kia KH Sketch

Kia has released sketches of its upcoming full-size luxury car, giving consumers a peek at its upcoming rear-wheel drive sedan. The Kia KH will be sold initially in South Korea, but analysts expect it to come to the U.S. in the near future.

This Kia will likely be powered by the same 3.8-liter V6 engine that’s found under the hood of the Hyundai Genesis, predicts Inside Line. Although Hyundai and Kia operate independently in the U.S., they share factories and many mechanical and electrical components.

Hyundai’s U.S. sales have been doing particularly well recently, with record-breaking sales in October, November, December and January. Plus, its premium $34,200 Genesis sedan’s sales set an all-time yearly record in December 2011, posting a 13 percent increase over 2010 sales. Not only is the Hyundai Genesis selling well, but the $59,000 Equus sedan captured almost 5 percent of U.S. premium sedan sales in its first year on the market, according to a press release.

Kia’s sales have been doing equally well, which is likely part of the reason the automaker is looking to imitate Hyundai’s sales success in the premium segment. According to a Kia press release, “In 2011, KMA recorded its 17th consecutive year of market share growth, thanks in part to the largest increase of any major brand in perceived quality4 and the industry's highest brand loyalty ranking5.”

Now that Hyundai has proven there’s a genuine market for a Korean-built luxury sedan, Kia is accelerating its entry into the segment. At the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show in November, Kia debuted the Kia GT concept, a sedan with coupe-like styling, rear-wheel drive and a 395-horsepower six-cylinder engine. These new sketches appear to most analysts to be a bit closer to the version of the GT that we’ll see in U.S. dealerships. “This is the production version of the Kia GT we were so smitten with in Frankfurt and LA,” writes Inside Line.

Though for now, Kia has only said that its flagship sedan will be sold in Korea, many auto industry analysts expect that it will eventually be sold in the U.S. “The car will initially launch in Korea, making its way to all other major markets throughout the year,” reports Autoblog.

With the success of the Hyundai Genesis and Equus, it’s clear that there’s a place in the U.S. market for luxury sedans from a value brand. Still, when the Hyundai Equus debuted, many wondered if shoppers would be willing to pay almost $60,000 for a Hyundai. If it proves to be as attractive as the sketches, would you buy a Kia GT if you were in the market for a luxury large car? Or would you pay more to get a better-known luxury brand name like BMW, Lexus or Mercedes-Benz?

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