Without a doubt, Peter Schreyer, the top design executive for both Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors, was the central architect behind Kia’s rare success with the “K series.”
Among the series, the K5, launched in 2010 and known as the updated Optima in overseas markets, became the series’ flagship model.
On the back of this success, Kia turned around its sales revenue, recording an increase of 43 trillion won in 2011, with operating profit reaching 3.5 trillion won.
|Peter Schreyer, president of Hyundai, Kia Design Center. (Bloomberg)|
The famous Tiger Nose grill which defined the K series was penned by Schreyer, and this grill soon became Kia’s signature look.
But sales have since slid.
The K9 was a flop, and the parts for the K8 ― said to be a “sportier” model ― have hit the assembly lines, but expectations are low.
Figures now show that the K5 sold less than 4,000 vehicles in January this year, the lowest monthly figure since its launch.
Schreyer was appointed to the top creative post at Hyundai earlier this year. This was understandable ― the contributions that the auto designer had made were crystal clear starting from 2006 when Kia named him its Chief Design Officer.
His work had been well known at Audi and Volkswagen, but more importantly, the K series became a brand that consumers were proud to be associated with ― an unusual achievement for Kia.
With the success of the K series, Schreyer was catapulted to quick fame in the Korean automobile scene and gave him the executive post at Hyundai and Kia.
This is precisely why he was expected to achieve so much more.
“Kia has to go premium, and we’re not certain if Schreyer is capable of creating such class,” said one industry expert who declined to be identified. “He’s made a significant contribution in recreating Kia’s identity, but we also know it’s difficult for the same designer to come up with something completely new.”
He added that Kia’s decision to give Schreyer a promotion when the K9 had flopped had also surprised many in the industry.
Others, such as Shin Jung-kwan, an analyst at KB Financial who leads the brokerage’s auto division, thinks differently.
“The fact that a foreigner was selected for such a high-profile post at such a Korean company in itself was a huge change, and it shows that the appointment of Peter Schreyer was indeed a success,” Shin said.
All in all, many will be watching for spanking new designs from Schreyer. As his fans and Kia argues, there’s still time to see if there’s anything more up this edgy German gentleman’s sleeve.
By Kim Ji-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)