Kia Motors Corp. (000270) promoted its chief designer Peter Schreyer to the role of president, the first foreigner to attain the position at the company, as the South Korean automaker seeks to elevate its global profile.
German-born Schreyer, hired from Volkswagen AG (VOW) in 2006, was promoted to president from executive vice president, Kia said in a statement today. The appointment makes Frankfurt-based Schreyer, who remains chief design officer, one of three presidents at the company.
“The promotion shows Kia’s key focus areas shifting from production and cost efficiency, which were traditionally considered more important, to design and research and development,” said Shin Chung Kwan, an analyst at KB Investment & Securities Co. in Seoul. “It also symbolizes Kia’s urge to advance as a global company -- showing a foreigner could make it to one of the top positions.”
Kia and Hyundai Motor Co. (005380) are both headed by Chairman Chung Mong Koo. His son Chung Eui Sun hired Schreyer when the younger Chung was co-CEO of Kia six years ago.
Kia and Hyundai Motor are stepping up efforts to move upscale and away from their reputations as builders of cheap, utilitarian cars. Schreyer, the designer of the Audi TT Coupe, was hired to overhaul Kia’s lineup and allow the Seoul-based automaker to charge more for its models.
At VW, Schreyer was head designer for the namesake brand and oversaw the development of the new Beetle, introduced in 1998. The 59-year-old studied transportation design at the Royal College of Art in London, joined Audi in 1980 and later became the brand’s head of design.
Schreyer has revised Kia’s sedan lineup since joining the company. His team introduced a common front shape with the “tiger-nose” grille for Kia models in 2007, now featured by almost all the company’s vehicles including the Optima, the revamped Sorento sport-utility vehicle, the Soul crossover and the Forte compact.
Kia, 34 percent owned by Hyundai Motor, is targeting to sell 2.75 million units in 2013, the Korea Economic Daily reported on Dec. 26, citing an unidentified Hyundai official. Hyundai, South Korea’s biggest automaker, expects to beat its full-year sales forecast of 4.29 million cars, Chief Financial Officer Lee Won Hee said Oct. 25.
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