KIA’s Ambitious New Direction in Malaysia

KIA might have been quiet for a short while in the Malaysian market when it parted ways with the Naza Group last year. This Korean brand has found a new partner in Bermaz Auto Bhd soon after and Kia Malaysia Sdn Bhd was established in April 2021.

This was not merely a return to regain lost ground in the Malaysian market but a complete revamp in strategy that looks at markets beyond our shores. Given its relatively good success here as a car brand that is well received for its range of products, Kia is confident that it could use Malaysia as a base to expand in the Asean region.

Together with Bermaz Auto as a shareholder and Dinamikjaya Sdn Bhd as the distributor of Kia vehicles in Malaysia, Kia would first focus on rebuilding its presence here before looking at expanding to the Asean region. That there are already orders being received for its cars reflect the positive brand image that it had already garnered.

Ted Lee, President and CEO of Kia Asia Pacific, outlined Kia’s new challenge in Malaysia as investing directly in the CKD (complete knock-down) business for the first time in the car company’s history as ‘we think (the) CKD business is a key success factor in the Asean market’.

As to the choice of Malaysia, he said ‘…we believe that Malaysia is the best country for Kia to roll out the CKD programme considering the heritage of the Kia brand in this country and the CKD business environment’.

In the first context, he pointed out there were more than 200,000 Kia vehicles in operation and that Malaysia saw top Kia sales in the Asean region from 2003 to 2006. The latter includes favourable CKD policies and an established automotive and vendor programme.

By introducing ‘attractive models and technology’ to the market and renewing business partnerships, Kia Malaysia is working towards producing 30,000 vehicles a year by 2026. It’s a modest target along with its intention to expand export.

Kia enthusiasts would be delighted to know that the two all new models that Kia Malaysia would introduce in 2022 is the latest Carnival MPV (multipurpose vehicle) and Sorento SUV (sport utility vehicle). This would be followed by the latest Sportage (compact SUV) and Niro (SUV Crossover) in 2023.

Vehicles assembled in Malaysia would be ‘exported’ to Asean countries and Kia Malaysia’s ‘strong export ambitions’ would begin on a modest scale with 6000 vehicles in 2022 and grow progressively over the years; 9000 in 2023, 12,000 in 2024, 15,000 in 2025 and 19,000 in 2026.

Tengku Ezan, Senior Manager – Product, Kia Asia Pacific, also elaborated on Kia’s Core Competency. In design, Kia’s capability saw major European awards in 2020 for its vehicles, both concept and production models. In quality, Kia was the top brand for the last six years in the Initial Quality Study of the US market conducted by J.D. Power.
He also said Kia has started shifting business direction for future competition. This includes electrification that sees a ‘pre-emptive shift to EV (electric vehicles)’ and EV/AV-based Mobility Services.

In the former, it has introduced a dedicated EV platform called the Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP) that boasts increased range, improved driving performance and enhanced special conveniences.

As a commitment of this transition to EV, Kia’s target is to establish an 11 BEV (battery-powered electric vehicles) line-up – four cars, six SUVs/MPVs and one commercial vehicle, by 2026. By 2030, it targets an annual sale of 1.6 million eco-friendly vehicles or 40 per cent of its entire vehicle portfolio. - LPS