Kia KH to be Kia’s first rear-drive sedan, large-car segment four-door may come to U.S.

Kia KH in profile

Kia KH in profile

Kia Motors today in Seoul released official sketches of a new flagship sedan that will go on sale in Korea in the first half of 2012. Tagged with the codename KH, it will be the first ever rear-drive sedan for Kia when it debuts in the large car segment. Hyundai said that the model would be sold in overseas markets without specifying which, or whether the production KH would come to the United States.

No details on mechanical aspects have been revealed, though speculation places the KH on the Hyundai Equus platform rather than that of the Hyundai Genesis, both rear-drive sedans. Kia is a subsidiary of Hyundai and the two companies share chassis, electronic and mechanical elements, including engines.

Kia KH right front quarter sketch

From the front quarter, the Kia KH codenamed large sedan looks like Jaguar or Maserati. (Click to englarge image).

The release of sketches instead concentrated on style. Kia in a statement said that the Kia KH would be “distinctive, modern and classic,” as “expressed through sophisticated, technically-advanced elements combined with Kia’s existing dynamic design language to create a vehicle that truly stands out from its competitors”…which remained unnamed.

Although the Kia KH’s profile was a “key focus” for the design, the front end of the KH is particularly exciting, blending a radical expression of the Kia family “tiger” grille with headlamp clusters angled back sharply, strongly reminiscent of Jaguar or Maserati. The rear end, however, has elements seen elsewhere—including a horizontal bright-chrome bar—but recombined for a rear end that is distinctively KH.

In a statement, Soon-Naam Lee, Kida’s director of overseas marketing, said, “Our all-new flagship sedan integrates all of our key capabilities such as design, performance, high-tech features and infotainment into one striking model.”

Kia KH sketch rear-quarter

The rear of the Kia KH shares elements with a number of other models. (Click to enlarge image).

“Although launch timings for overseas markets are yet to be confirmed, this all-new rear-drive large sedan will definitely become the leading model of our line-up around the world, showcasing the best of the best of Kia.”

Although that would suggest sales in the U.S. and Canada, important and rapidly growing markets for Kia, Kia officials might be concerned about the failure of the Volkswagen Phaeton, a large flagship sedan priced in Mercedes-Benz S-class territory, in North America. A Volkswagen badge on a car in this class, no matter how good, became the definition of the word “hubris.” That’s the trap Kia must avoid if the production version of the Kia KH is to succeed on this continent.

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