Kia Unveils Premium Minivan
By Na Jeong-ju
Kia Motors, South Korea’s second largest carmaker, yesterday unveiled a premium mini van, aiming to challenge the industry’s big guns, such as the Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna and Dodge Caravan.
Grand Carnival is the result of a 250 billion won ($240 million) investment over the past 26 months, and was engineered to match world-class vans in terms of driving technologies, convenience and safety features, the carmaker said.
Kia will export the vehicle to the United States in September and explore other markets next year in hopes of achieving annual sales of 200,000 units.
``We’ve developed the Grand Carnival to target global mini van markets, and it surely stands over all existing models in South Korea in most technological aspects,’’ Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group chairman Chung Mong-koo said during a launch in Seoul.
``Kia applied its know-how and top technologies to manufacturing the Grand Carnival. We believe the car will open our export market wider.’’
Kia plans to sell 50,000 Grand Carnivals this year. Next year, its Korean sales are expected to reach 40,000 units, and overseas sales will be over 160,000 units, the company said.
The 11-seat Grand Carnival is a revamped version of the Carnival recreation vehicle, which was first introduced in 1998. New safety features include a variable rack stroke system and a vehicle dynamic control system, which are aimed at enhancing stability while driving. It also adopted an integrated memory system, which adjusts the seat for a driver automatically when the engine starts.
Kia officials said the vehicle’s 170-horsepower engine and state-of-the-art entertainment features are also some of the advantages for customers.
Owners of the Grand Carnival can enjoy a tax deduction for mini vans in South Korea. In 2008, when a new tax system is applied, Carnival owners will pay some 760,000 won less tax than the owners of sports utility vehicles with the same engine capacity, Kia officials said.