Since 1990s after the local production of automobiles kicked off, most of the established automobile names were phased out of the market. Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan (Datsun) had a long history in Pakistan but since the 90s choices started to revolve chiefly around Suzuki, Honda & Toyota.
Though little variety came in the form of yellow cabs, imported under the Prime Minister’s scheme, most of these vehicles later got repainted and were used privately. Daewoo Racer, Hyundai Excel & Daihatsu Cuore were among the many vehicles imported under this scheme.
KIA launched in Pakistan during mid 1990s
Besides these, KIA was another name which emerged into our market in mid 90s when 1000cc Kia Pride hatchback and 1 ton pickup Kia Ceres made their way in Pakistan. Naya Daur Motors (under the Tawwakal group) was the first to introduce these vehicles in 1994/95. However according to court filings, the company took over Rs 800 million as booking from 16,000 people and delivered only a few hundred vehicles before going bankrupt. The collected money was allegedly transferred outside Pakistan for the company’s other businesses. This put an utterly bad impression on the KIA brand since the after sales support was next to nothing.
KIA & Dewan Farooque Motors
Dewan Farooque Motor Company Limited (DFML) was incorporated in December 1998. Despite the unpleasant experience of KIA vehicles in Pakistan, DFML made agreements with Hyundai and Kia to assemble and sell their vehicles in Pakistan.
The plant built in rural Sindh’s Sujawal area at a cost of Rs 1.8 billion was completed in seven months. It was the first automobile manufacturing plant in the country to have robotic paint machines. With the capacity to make 10,000 vehicles a year, DFML produced 95,429 vehicles between 2000 and 2011 which included Kia Spectra, Sportage and Hyundai’s Santro. It also sold 50,000 Shehzore trucks, which still dominate the one ton-truck category. DFML was also the first to introduce car leasing through Askari Leasing.
According to CEO DFML Dewan Yousuf:
“Historically, Pakistan’s per capita usage of cars has remained low. From 1993 onwards, car sales remained stagnant at 30,000 units a year. It goes to our credit that we helped revive an industry.”
Year 2000: The first local KIA rolled off the assembly lines
KIA Classic, also known as Pride-B in global markets was the first vehicle, a 1300cc sedan to roll of the DFML assembly lines in year 2000. The car was a sedan version of the Pride hatchback which made inroads during the mid 90s in Pakistan. This was followed by the launch of Hyundai Santro Plus, the first locally assembled 1000cc hatchback other than Suzuki.
DFML at its peak
A year later KIA in Pakistan rose to its peak with the launch of new models including the Kia Spectra, Kia Sportage & Hyundai Shehzore trucks. Kia Spectra in 2001 with a launch price of just under PKR 7.4 lac became an instant hit and was available for the highest amount of OWN money for a newly launched vehicle. A year later Santro Plus was replaced with the better looking Santro Club and instantly became a good seller.
DFML was also among the pioneers to introduce factory fitted CNG vehicles. For a few years DFML enjoyed wonderful profits in terms of their vehicle sales but then things started to go down the hill.
Dewan acquired Pakland Cement in 2004 for Rs 1.1 billion in cash soon after which Dewan group started to post losses cascading into problems for the entire group in just 24 months. Things kept turning from bad to worst and by 2008 were vanished from mainstream news. Dewans were eventually declared the defaulters of over Rs 40 billion.
Karachi-listed Lucky Cement, which is part of the vast conglomerate Yunus Brothers Group (YBG), is planning to invest Rs 12 billion ($115 million) to set up a plant in order to start “manufacturing and assembling” KIA vehicles in Pakistan. The new venture will also market and sell, besides import and export of, “all types of KIA vehicles, parts and their accessories.
A glance at the current KIA range:
The reputation of KIA vehicles in Pakistan considering the experiences in both the previous occasions is shaky. KIA Spectra which used to sell like hot cakes when launched in 2001 is currently considered as the most undesirable vehicle and has little or no resale. Same goes for other KIA branded vehicles in Pakistan.
However internationally Hyundai & KIA have achieved leaps and bounds over the past decade and currently produce much better vehicles compared to the likes of what people of Pakistan have been used to. From a vast range of quality vehicles, we have picked models that are relevant to Pakistani market.
The Picanto was introduced by DFML during 2006 when the group was in financial turmoil. And with import duties on the rise, these CBU units were quite expensive hence only a few went out of the dealerships. Among these was the first generation (SA) Picanto hatchback. The rather unexciting SA Picanto was phased out in 2011 and was replaced by the TA Picanto which is still in production and is a class of its own.
Available with a 1.0 liter 3 cylinder Kappa II engine with 69hp, and a 1.2 liter 4 cylinder Kappa II engine with 87 hp, mated to either a 5 speed manual, 4 speed automatic or a CVT gearbox, the TA Picanto is equipped with 6 airbags, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Vehicle Stability Management (VSM), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) etc.
With its striking looks & well balanced design, the 1.0 liter Picanto can be a nightmare for the Suzuki WagonR in our market.
The Rio was another subcompact that was launched during 2006 towards the financial crisis of the Dewan group. The 2nd generation (JB) Rio sedan with a 1.4 liter engine & a high price tag stood no chance to compete against the likes of Honda City, Suzuki Liana and the hot seller Toyota Corolla Xli.
In 2011 the 2nd (JB) Rio was replaced with the 3rd generation (UB) Rio and became just as visually attractive as the rest of the KIA lineup. It comes with 1.2 & 1.4 liter 4 cylinder Kappa engines and a 1.6 liter 4 cylinder Gamma GDI engine. While a 1.1 liter 3 cylinder U-Line Turbo diesel as well as a 1.4 liter 4 cylinder U-line Turbo diesel are also available. Transmission options are 4-speed automatic, 6-speed automatic and 6-speed manual.
Key features include automatic climate control, Solar control glass which reduces the penetration of heat rays, Auto defog system, Smart key, 6 Airbags, ABS+EBD, Rain sensors, Reverse alarm if you get too close to other cars or obstacles, 4 interior color options etc.
The entry level Rio sedan can be a good contender against the likes of Honda City in Pakistan.
Launched in 2008, the Kia Forte is a replacement of Spectra. While Kia Spectra enjoyed impeccable success in early days of its launch here in our country, there were quite a few things attributed to its downfall, not just in Pakistan but in global markets as well. But the good thing was that it was replaced by the Forte in international markets.
Kia Forte, also known as Cerato/ K3 is a compact sedan available with two 1.6 liter engines (Gamma (economy 130hp, ) & U-II 136hp VGT (performance)) and a 2.0 liter 152hp Nu engine.
The Forte comes with bulk load of options including info cluster, heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, heated seats, IMS Integrated Memory System, Engine start/ stop button, smart key, rear a/c vents, 10-way power assisted driver seat, automatic air-conditioning with dual zone climate control, organ type accelerator pedal, blind spot detection, front/ rear parking assist system, 6 airbags, smart trunk, rear view camera, VSM vehicle stability management, Electro-chromic rear view mirror, seat belt pretensioners, 7 speed dual clutch transmission, paddle shifters, automatic cruise control etc.
In addition to this, The Flex Steer system provides three driving modes (Comfort, Normal, and Sport) that deliver the appropriate level of steering assistance and feedback for different driving conditions, Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and ABS with EBD are on the offer as well.
The new Forte has the potential to become a serious threat to the Altis 1.6/ Aspire 1.5 and can create a market of its own, should Yunus Brothers Group (YBG) price it well & more importantly keep it a feature packed car.
The first generation Sportage (JA) was a popular low budget SUV of its time in Pakistan, however the later ones (second gen JE/KM) that were offered during 2006 were never able to sell well.
The Sportage is currently in its 4th generation (QL) and according to KIA its contrasting sharp edges and smooth surfaces were inspired by modern fighter jets. The all-new Sportage has won the 2016 Red Dot Award for Car Design. There are two petrol engines, as well as one diesel engine in the line-up. The petrol options are a 2.0-litre or 2.4-litre, offering around 120kW/200Nm and 138 kW/241Nm respectively, while the diesel is a 2.0-litre turbo that produces around 135 kW/400Nm.
Sportage boasts innumerable features which include Wireless Smartphone Charger, Smart power tailgate, 4.2 inch color TFT-LCD, ventilated/ heated seats, power seat adjustment, rear reclining seats, JBL sound system with Clari-Fi™ technology, AUX & USB ports, Bluetooth, Auto defoggers, Ventilation and USB charger for 2nd row passengers, large panoramic sunroof, LED fog lamps, Dynamax automatic AWD, Advance Traction Cornering Control ATCC, 6 Airbags, blind-spot detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert RCTA, Parking Assist System, VSM Vehicle Stability Management, Automatic Cruise Control etc.
The Sportage if re-launched can once again become a hot selling SUV in Pakistan.
The current KIA lineup is much more advanced and internationally acclaimed compared to the KIA vehicles that we are exposed to, being largely based on the technology acquired from Mazda. It is however too early to say which cars will be introduced in our market but one thing is for sure, if YBG is able to offer the quality & features comparable to the international standards, they can create some serious troubles for the existing Japanese trio.
A computer animation professional with over 23 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations, TV channels & production facilities in Pakistan. An avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver quality content to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com