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Why Kia’s attempt to move into the luxury car market is doomed to fail

I had to look twice. I really did. The new Kia K9 is a good-looking car. It should be too because it’s almost identical to the new BMW 5 Series. Unless there is a new partnership we’re not aware of – BMW should be livid. I’m pretty sure just about every line, contour and feature has been ‘inspired’ by the new 5 Series (despite one website likening it to the 7 Series…which is wrong).

I chuckled a little when I read that this car is also rear wheel drive.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh on Kia. After all, how many times has the features of an Aston Martin been mimicked, Jaguar. Even the rear of an Audi A5 echoes the styling of a DB9.

Aside from the extent to which the styling seems to have been borrowed from the 5 series, Kia faces another problem, their brand. When the Jaguar C-X16 came out looking a bit Aston Martin or when the XKR was launched in 2006 looking very Aston Martin, nobody minded. We didn’t mind because Jaguar is well established in the luxury car market – even with their blip under general motors – the Jaguar brand conveys values such as beauty, performance and quality. Kia’s brand conveys affordability and…affordability, and a sense of foreboding as you wonder if you get a seven-year warranty because you’ll need it.

Shy of calling a Kia car a false economy, I just think their blatant attempts to position themselves in the premium car market will be spotted by the consumer like a ninja with bagpipes strapped to his feet. Brands should never pretend to be something they’re not. If you want to occupy a new position in the market you have to re-brand or buy a name that already occupies that space.

I have attacked Kia for the majority of this post. I should point out that I have nothing against cheap cars. Nor do I believe that it is impossible for an affordable marque to produce something aesthetically pleasing; look at the front of a Ford Mondeo these days or the Vauxhall Insignia, both nice looking cars. Kia should keep designing pretty cars – maybe try to disguise the imitation a little more – but focus on brand values that are relevant to their growing customer base.

Skoda is the ideal case study to show how my suggestion would work. Skoda now make some fantastic cars, great to drive and very reliable, but still affordable. Ironically perhaps, Skoda falls short on aesthetics, which if resolved, would give them an extremely strong position.

Kia and Skoda might need to take a leaf out of each other’s glove compartment manual because whoever gets there first will be producing fantastic cars that a large consumer base will buy into.