The “Made in America” tag continues to become more confusing, now that Kia has become the latest Asian brand to set up a “transplant” assembly plant. The factory, in West Point, Georgia, launched production of the all-new 2011 Kia Sorento just two weeks ago.
The stylish Korean-engineered crossover could build on the brand’s already significant momentum; Kia sales have been defying gravity during the current economic downturn, posting a 7.8% increase since the beginning of the year.
The crossover market is critical for automakers hoping to take advantage of shifting consumer tastes, said Kia’s vice president of sales, Tom Loveless. “We see customers rightsizing, rather than downsizing.”
The stylish five-door is based on the Kia KND4 concept vehicle which was unveiled at the 2007 Los Angeles Auto Show. It’s both longer and lower than the outgoing Sienna, and is aimed at buyers who want room for 5 full-size adults, with occasional seating for 7, noted Kia’s marketing director, Michael Sprague.
The unibody-based CUV features a new McPherson strut front suspension and a mult-link rear.
Buyers will have the option of ordering either of two powertrains, a new 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 276 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. The mileage-minded alternative is a 2.4-liter inline-four getting 21 mpg City, 29 Highway. Both are mated to a new 6-speed automatic gearbox Kia developed in-house, and which is being produced at a facility adjacent to the new West Point assembly line.
The crossover will deliver a wide range of features, particularly considering it is expected to be offered at a price tag starting under $20,000 – about $1,500 less than the old 2009 Kia Sorento. Along with customer comfort features, such as a 550-watt audio upgrade, buyers can opt for Bluetooth. But the 6-airbag system is standard, as is stability control.
According to Sprague, the Korean maker will back the January launch of the 2011 Kia Sorento “with our largest advertising campaign ever.” You’ll likely have to turn hermit to miss the ads, which will appear in movie theaters and on one of the largest video billboards in New York’s Time Square on New Year’s Eve.
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