SEOUL – Kia will begin production of a rear-wheel-drive car in May 2012, company officials tell media here today.

Launch markets have not been determined. A Kia spokesman does not say if the car will share a platform with the RWD Hyundai Genesis and Equus large sedans.

“Size-wise, it will be between the Genesis and the Equus,” Kia spokesman Michael Choo tells Ward’s.

A concept Kia RWD car is slated to debut at next month’s Frankfurt auto show.

Soon-Nam Lee, Kia’s director-overseas marketing, says a RWD coupe is under consideration, but not confirmed.

Lee adds the Frankfurt RWD concept will have “coupe style.”

Besides an all-new model, Kia – which aggressively has been replacing engines and transmission – says additional powertrain technology is due for its existing models.

Hyundai-Kia engineers already are developing a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

“We have finished the basic design,” says K.H. Lee of the automatic transmission test department at Hyundai-Kia's Namyang research and development center. Prototypes were completed last month.

A 6-speed DCT is set to make its U.S. debut in the Hyundai Veloster within weeks. Lee says the 7-speed DCT likely is two model years away.

Also, a next-generation version of Kia’s new 164-hp, 2.0L multi-port injected I-4, destined for the ’12 Soul, is under development.

The new engine will feature continuously variable valve-lift technology, similar to BMW's Valvetronic system, but with a unique mechanical design, says Dong Hee Han, a senior research engineer at the Namyang R&D center.

Future Souls will get the CVVL version of the ’12 2.0L. Timing is undetermined.

Prototype versions of the next-gen 2.0L I-4 make about 170 hp and boasts a 5% fuel-economy improvement, compared with the port-injected 2.0L, Han says.

The port-injected engine is expected to achieve 26/34 mpg (9.0/7.9 L/100 km) in the Soul.

The horsepower and highway fuel-economy figures announced here for the 2.0L ’12 Soul are up from earlier estimates of 160 hp and 31 mpg (8.0 L/100 km).

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com