Korean brands Hyundai and Kia will be taking different paths in the future, while still sharing many components under the skin.
Speaking to What Car?, Kia Europe's chief operating officer, Paul Philpot, said: 'There's lots of work going on to take the brands apart. Kia should be seen as dynamic, youthful and sporty, while Hyundai is more style and comfort-oriented and more premium'.
'The differences will be more design-led,' said Philpot. 'We're well aware of the criticism over the similarity of the Kia Venga and Hyundai ix20.'
Philpot was speaking as Kia unveiled all-new Picanto and Rio small cars, the latter with an incredible 88mpg 1.1-litre diesel engine. Those cars will be built in Korea, but Philpot also signalled that Kia's factory in Slovakia will no longer be making models for Hyundai, concentrating on Kia's Cee'd, Venga and Sportage models. Likewise, Hyundai's factory in the Czech Republic will concentrate on Hyundai models.
More new models on the way
The new Picanto and Rio will be joined later this year by the Optima, a Mondeo-sized family saloon. A new Cee'd small family car will arrive in 2012 and an all-electric car will be launched in Korea next year, going on sale globally in 2013.
Philpot is hopeful that the Optima will be joined by an Optima estate in the not-too distant future. 'The Optima is about as premium as Kia should get' he said. He also shares Kia chief designer Peter Schreyer's passion for a small sports car 'like an MX-5 for Kia', but said there were no firm plans yet.
According to Philpot, the biggest challenge for Kia is moving from a car maker with too much capacity to one with not enough – waiting lists for Kia's Sportage crossover, for example, currently stretch to three months.
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