More stories related to Geneva Motor ShowGENEVA – The resurgence of Kia Motors Corp. began in North America, but the revival may be completed in Europe.

Kia unveils its all-new subcompact 5-door Rio here at the Geneva auto show and predicts Europe will surpass North America as its top export destination this year.

“Our total export target to European countries for the current year is just over 412,000 vehicles,” says Kim Yong-Hwan, Kia senior executive vice president and chief operating officer. “And Europe’s share of total global exports is forecast to leap from 35% in 2004 to 46% by the end of the year.”

New Kia Rio 5-door

Kia exports to Europe increased 71% in 2004 compared with 2003, to more than 264,000 vehicles. Overall overseas shipments totaled more than 760,000 vehicles – up 43% vs. 2003.

“Later this month, we will celebrate our 5 millionth cumulative export,” says Kim. “And in 2005, we have our sights set on reaching 1 million exports, including production in China, while generating $10 billion in export revenue.”

Kia is responding to increasing demand in Europe with investments, including a research and development facility in Russelsheim, Germany, an assembly plant under construction in Slovakia and a new regional headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.

“To complement our expansion strategy in Europe, we plan to further strengthen our ever-growing dealer network, and we will continue our commitment to sports marketing activities with sponsorship of the Australian Open and Davis Cup tennis tournaments,” Kim says.

Kia will add to its marketing efforts by sponsoring FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Assn.) soccer tournaments from 2007-2014, the auto maker announces here. “But we all know…the ultimate factor for success lies with the product itself,” Kim says.

The 5-door Rio will go on sale this summer with the sedan, says J.C. Lievens, Kia Motors Europe vice president.

Taller, wider and shorter than the model it replaces, the 5-door Rio offers two gasoline engines (1.4L and 1.6L); one diesel powerplant (1.5L); two equipment levels; a standard 5-speed manual transmission with the diesel engine; and a standard automatic gearbox with the two gas mills.

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com