Kia says that their name comes from the Sino-Korean words "ki" and "a" which together mean "rising out of Asia." Founded in 1944, Kia began as a bicycle manufacturer, then branched into motorcycles, and finally into automotive in 1962. Kia's real start began with a partnership with Ford, then a partner with Japanese carmaker Mazda, but the company didn't enter the American market until 1994, with the introduction of the Kia Sephia and later the still-best-selling Sportage crossover. A year after entering the country, Kia had over one hundred dealerships and was selling more automobiles than some European rivals who'd been here for years. The Kia-Ford partnership ended in 1998 when Hyundai bought controlling shares of Kia.
Kia's vehicles are known for low cost and value, but more recently are gaining a reputation as being some of the most stylish on the road as well. With the opening of the company's first U.S.-based manufacturing facility in Georgia in 2010, the opening of a U.S.-based design office, and the hiring of German designer Peter Shreyer, the company began pressing forward with a new design language for its vehicles that has won numerous awards and accolades globally and boosted the company's overall sales in world markets considerably.
Kia is also known in the U.S. as a very visible sponsor of the National Basketball Association (including the WNBA), the X Games, and most recently of golfer Michelle Wie and the YouTube Music Awards. The recent introduction of the K900 marks Kia's first entrance into the luxury car market.