Kia: Along with tech focus, German carmakers will be benchmarks in bid to build up brand equity

Kia Cub ConceptFollowing the recent unveiling of several hot concepts like the Cub showcased at the Seoul Motor Show, Korean carmaker Kia seems to be turning its focus on elevating the clout of the brand, especially when it comes to engine technology.

In a recent interview with Automotive News, Lee Soon-nam, vice president of Kia’s overseas marketing group, said that part of the carmaker’s new development strategy will include benchmarking German carmakers like Volkswagen with a sportier appeal.

Most of the new development, which also aims to distinguish Kia from its Korean-based sibling, Hyundai, will come in the form of technology, reports Automotive News.

Most of the new technology, said Kia officials, will focus on engine development and include expanding the use of downsized turbocharged engines, introducing dual-clutch transmissions and expanding the company’s range of hybrid vehicles.

Some of the changes are to include equipping other nameplates with Kia’s 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injection engine, currently used in the Optima sedan and Sportage crossover − and offering a 1.6-liter turbocharged, direct-injection engine in the new Forte arriving later this year.

Lee also told Automotive News that a new vehicle in the pipeline for 2015, which he described as a “brand iconic model,” will get the 1.6-liter turbo. In Europe, 1.0- and 1.2-liter turbo engines, with direct injection, will be offered on the Rio and Cee’d small cars, as part of the new aggressive technology strategy.

Kia also will expand its use of dual-clutch transmissions, bringing them to the US in 2014 or early 2015, Lee said. In 2015, the carmaker plans to start rolling out gas-electric hybrid options on some models.

The company also will launch its first plug-in hybrid by the end of 2015, according to the Automotive News report.

The question remains, however, if it will all be enough to give Kia the cred it needs to contend with the likes of VW and BMW.