[Photo provided by Kia Motors Corp.]
South Korea’s second largest automaker Kia Motors Corp. has launched new Sportage in China in hopes that the latest new sports utility vehicle (SUV) model could act as much-needed traction in the country where sales of Korean brands have been sagging due to ascension of Chinese names.
Kia Motors said on Wednesday that its Chinese joint-venture Dongfeng Yueda Kia Motor officially released the company’s upgraded Sportage SUV at an launching event held in Xian, China on the same day.
Sportage SUV is a flagship model of the automaker that sold a total of 891,536 units in China until last month since its first release in 2007. The new Sportage, specifically tailored to meet demands of Chinese consumers, is upgraded with new smart features to entice interest from young Chinese.
The new SUV comes with the connectivity software Baidu MapAuto developed by Chinese tech giant Baidu that can help drivers search the real-time traffic and geographical information. It is also embedded with payment systems Alipay and WeChat Pay to allow drivers to make direct online payment without leaving their cars.
The new Sportage is also fitted with many safety features including forward collision-avoidance assist, lane following assist, and driver attention warning systems, according to the automaker.
The new Sportage launch in China comes as Korean brands have been struggling in the world’s biggest auto market with sales almost halved until the first half of last year amid the diplomatic row between Seoul and Beijing over Korea’s decision to install Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antimissile system on its soil.
Cumulative sales of Kia Motors in China exceeded 5 million units last month since its foray into the market in 2002, the company said recently. Kia hopes its new flagship Sportage SUV can help accelerate its sales in the country.
Earlier last week, Kia’s larger affiliate Hyundai Motor launched its new subcompact SUV Encino (known as Kona in Korea) in China. It plans to release its Sonata plug-in hybrid model in China in the second half of this year and promote its eco-friendly technologies by using its hydrogen-powered vehicle Nexo to further entice Chinese consumers’ demand for its vehicles, according to a company official.
Hyundai Motor’s sales in China increased 19.6 percent on year to 67,000 units in March, and Kia Motors reported a 90.9 percent sales increase to 31,000 units.
By Kim Jung-hwan and Lee Ha-yeon
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]