SEOUL Dec 28 Peter Schreyer, known for his
design contributions to the iconic Audi TT, became the first
foreign president of Kia Motors Corp as the South
Korean carmaker enters the next phase of its branding
Schreyer, who joined Kia from Volkswagen AG in
2006 and was subsequently linked to the rise of the Hyundai
Motor Co affiliate, was promoted from chief design
officer and executive vice president on Friday.
The promotion is a clear sign of Kia and Hyundai Motor's
ambition to outdo German rivals Volkswagen and BMW in
design - a key part of a strategy that has helped the South
Korean duo ramp up sales and gain market share even during the
global economic downturn in 2009.
"We should not have let him go," Volkswagen's Chairman
Ferdinand Piech told Automotive News in an interview in
Born in Germany in 1953, Schreyer was reportedly brought in
by then Kia president Chung Eui-sun - the only son and heir
apparent of the 74-year-old Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung
Before joining Kia, Schreyer thought Kia's designs were
"I thought I wanted to give Kia a character and a family
feel... If you come to a country and you see a Kia, you should
recognise it immediately, like you recognise a BMW or Mercedes
immediately," he said in an interview with Reuters in March.
Schreyer went on to create a "tiger-nose" grille for Kia,
previously known for its nondescript but value-for-money image.
In one stroke, the former Audi designer gave a distinct face
to Kia models ranging from the small Picanto to the Forte and
Kia, acquired by Hyundai Motor in 1998 during the Asian
financial crisis, has been expanding sales at a faster pace than
Hyundai Motor in markets such as the United States and Europe.
Combined, Kia and Hyundai Motor rank fifth in global car
Inspired by Schreyer's success, Hyundai Motor poached ex-BMW
designer Christopher Chapman to head its U.S. design centre this
WORK IN PROGRESS
Kia's transformation is yet complete.
K9, Kia's first rear-wheel drive luxury sedan, is not doing
well in South Korea. Sales reached 405 vehicles in November,
less than a quarter of a sales target of 2,000 a month.
"Kia is in a situation where Audi was 30 years ago, and even
longer," Schreyer said during a lecture at Yonsei University in
Seoul in May.
This is "an adventure, positive adventure," he said, wearing
his signature black suit and horn-rimmed glasses.
He also said that Kia, which jointly conducts research and
development with Hyundai Motor, needs to further improve its
"BMW is famous for engines. This is the core of BMW, the
path they will not leave. They're investing a lot in
technology," he said at the lecture.
Schreyer said in March he does not plan to leave Kia.
"I kind of feel that I belong to Kia," he told Reuters.
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Ryan Woo)