Kia has steadily become among the most popular car brands in the UK and around the world thanks to affordable price points and tremendous levels of quality. But where is Kia from and where are these cars made? In today’s blog post you’ll find out more about this world-beating brand.

Where is Kia From?

Kia hails from South Korea and has its headquarters in the nation’s capital, Seoul. The earliest origins of Kia can be traced back to Kyungsung Precision Industry, which was the original name of the company formed in 1944 that would later become Kia. It first adopted the name we now know back in 1956.

The company opened their first fully integrated assembly plant in 1973, focusing primarily on the domestic market. That was quite typical for Korean brands of all stripes in their early days. For many years, Kia only manufactured under license from other brands such as Ford, Mazda and others, but eventually the Kia brand also started to take hold. In the early 1990s, the Kia Sephia and Sportage models started to become known even as far away as the US market.

Who Owns Kia?

The 1980s had been a rough decade for the company in their home country of South Korea as a result of the military dictatorship’s policy on industrial consolidation. That luck didn’t get much better in the 1990s as Kia ran into financial difficulties amid the wider financial crisis of the later 90s. Kia was declared bankrupt in 1997, but it didn’t end there.

The result of the turmoil was fellow Korean automotive giant, Hyundai, taking a 51-percent controlling stake in the company, outbidding US rival Ford in the process. Ford had been involved in Kia since the 1980s and was bitterly disappointed to lose this chance at a controlling stake, but it seems that Kia was destined to remain a distinctly Korean firm.

Today, the shareholding has changed, but Hyundai still owns about a third share in Kia, and Kia is also part owner of a number of Hyundai subsidiaries. It’s a little confusing to the uninitiated, but the simple story is that these two companies are now firmly intertwined.

Where are Kia Cars Made?

Now we know that Kia is from South Korea, but it doesn’t answer the full question as to where it is the Kia’s that we see on our roads come from. Kia cars are manufactured in plants located in eight countries: South Korea, Vietnam, China, Slovakia, USA, Mexico, India and Pakistan.

There are four facilities for production within South Korea, as well as individual sites in all the other countries mentioned, many of which are joint ventures with local automotive companies. Among the largest production areas outside of South Korea are the Slovakian sites, which produces for the European market, and the Georgia and Mexico sites producing for North America.

The company also maintains a number of design and R&D centres around the world. The first is in Namyang, South Korea. The North American centre is located in Irvine, California, the European centre in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Chinese centres in Shanghai and Yantai.

Kia Presence in the UK

While Kia doesn’t manufacture in the UK, it does maintain a large distribution centre in Stallingborough, North Lincolnshire. An agreement was reached in 2019 to expand the site from 35.6 hectares by another 16.8 hectares that it acquired from Associated British Ports, bringing the total to 52.6 hectares. The centre deals with tens of thousands of Kia motors annually brought in from plants in Slovakia and South Korea.