Kia Motors broke the 10 million mark in exports on Thursday with a shipment of K5 sedans to the U.S. from Pyeongtaek port, Gyeonggi Province. It is the second Korean automaker to reach the milestone, following Hyundai Motor in July 2004.
Kia first started exports with a shipment of 10 Brisa pick-up trucks to Qatar in 1975, and entered the U.S. market in 1987 with the Pride (or Rio) compact. It currently ships to 156 countries, with deliveries to North America now totaling 4.27 million units and to Europe 2.45 million.
The Morning compact, called the Picanto overseas, is the automaker's strongest overseas seller so far with 764,453 units exported, followed by the Pride and Sorento crossover SUV with 747,554 and 656,446.
The average price of the company's export models has jumped tenfold from US$1,400 per unit in 1975 to $12,000 last year. The company's revenues from exports have grown from $100 million in 1987 to $11.2 billion in 2010, accounting for 2.4 percent of Korea's overall exports.
But Kia's rise has not always been smooth. It suffered a slump, posting deficits for two consecutive years after its exports reached the 5 million mark in 2006. It turned the corner again, however, with the hiring of Peter Schreyer as chief design officer, who formerly headed the design team at Volkswagen.