Kia Motors Corp.’s North America sales in February remained about flat in contrast to the “Big Three” American automakers, which all saw big year-on-year drops in sales for the month.

South Korea-based Kia sold 24,294 cars in North America last month, 0.5 percent more than last February, according to a company news release.

Kia is building a $1.2 billion plant in West Point, Ga., that will begin making its Sorento SUVs for the U.S. market by late 2009.  Company officials have said that the plant will have the capacity to produce about 300,000 vehicles per year.

Craig Lesser, a former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development who played a key role in attracting the Kia investment, said that Kia only has about 3.5 percent market share in North America but is in good shape to grow.

“Kia is holding up very well right now given the economic climate and where the manufacturers are,” Mr. Lesser told GlobalAtlanta.

While other carmakers are struggling to stay afloat, Kia is introducing new models, Mr. Lesser said.

“Within a year and a half, the oldest model that they have is the Borrego [luxury SUV] that they introduced last summer,” said Mr. Lesser, who is now the managing partner of Pendleton Consulting Group LLC.

Kia is having some success overcoming some negative perceptions about Korean-made cars.  Many models have high safety ratings and 100,000-mile warranties, and the brand has been receiving more and more media coverage, Mr. Lesser said.

Mr. Lesser represents Kia in public affairs matters through JEL Group LLC, a company he formed after leaving his post as managing director of McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP at the beginning of the year.

At home in Korea, Kia sales grew by 13.5 percent in February.  That number was 3.3 percent in China, where Kia sold more than 11,000 units.

The Middle East and Africa grew by 83.9 percent, with nearly 14,000 units sold.

In all, Kia sold 102,664 vehicles globally in February.


As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...