CHICAGO, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Kia Motors Corp unveiled a concept version of a large, luxury crossover vehicle on Thursday that represents a crucial part of the South Korean automaker's effort to compete with more upscale brands in the U.S. auto market.
The Cross GT concept, shown at the Chicago Auto Show, is another sign of Kia's newfound direction under Peter Schreyer, who has overhauled Kia's designs since joining the company from Audi in 2006.
This new push was first hinted at nearly two years ago with the Kia GT concept, a rear-wheel-drive sedan, which, like the Cross GT, was developed by Schreyer, now Kia president and head of design for both Kia and its sister company Hyundai .
Schreyer, a German designer known as the creative brain behind the Audi TT, said the GT was a "new frontier" for Kia.
"The Cross GT, with its raised stance and large cargo area, allows us to envision the GT in the form of a full-size luxury crossover," he added in a statement.
The Cross GT concept would be larger and more upscale than the current Kia Sorento crossover. The Cross GT is built on the same platform as the Hyundai Genesis, Hyundai's premium sedan, and was designed at Kia's design center in Irvine, California.
The Cross GT is more than 8 inches longer and about 5 inches wider than the Sorento. The concept's wheelbase is 122 inches, nearly 16 inches longer than the Sorento.
The Cross GT illustrates Kia's intention to gain a foothold in the fast-growing luxury crossover segment in both the United States and China.
Many other automakers are also rolling out offerings in the space, such as the Lincoln MKC, Ford Motor Co's first premium compact crossover due out next year. Volkswagen AG's Audi is also planning to expand its U.S. crossover lineup next year.