Kia will signal its intent to make sportier cars by showing a V8-powered rear-wheel-drive coupe concept model at Septembers Frankfurt motor show.
Speaking to What Car? in Seoul, Kias boss Hank Lee admitted that the company needed a so-called halo model to improve its brand image and that the coupe was the first of a series of show cars to test the water.
The concept car will be based on Kia's new US market luxury saloon, due to be launched in 2012. Another concept car using the same underpinnings will be shown at the Detroit motor show in January. Its likely that a production version of the winning idea will appear in 2015.
A new rear-wheel-drive coupe could be just the start. Kia also needs an MX-5 rival, a highly placed company source has revealed to What Car?.
In the past, Kia's design boss Peter Schreyer admitted that a Kia sports car wouldn't need to be fast, but compact, affordable and fun. Our source also indicated that, unlike the Frankfurt concept model, the MX-5 rival need not be rear-drive, but could be a front-driver and based on the next-generation Cee'd hatch, due out next year.
Kia bosses are also thought to be in favour of boosting the company's sporty image with hot hatches based on the Kia Rio supermini and next C'eed.
In the future, an entire sub-brand such as Renaultsport or Fords Team RS is possible. Kia is also considering a far greater involvement in motorsport, to help build a sportier image for the brand.