Kia has announced that a state-of-the-art design centre will be created at its new European headquarters currently under construction in the centre of Frankfurt, Germany.

This is the first design centre that is independent of parent company, Hyundai Motor.

The design centre marks a significant change in strategy, as its other existing design centres located throughout the world are jointly operated with Hyundai.

"Through a separate facility, Kia Motors will be able to further strengthen its goal of designing high quality vehicles with European-oriented style and performance that are especially in tune with the needs and desires of buyers throughout Europe," a Kia spokesman told just-auto.

"These latest plans clearly signal Kia's continuing strong commitment to Europe, which has become its largest export market in 2005. Over the past two years, Kia has been the fastest growing automotive brand in Europe."

"As part of our global expansion plan, building a separate design centre in Europe is an important and timely step in order to further differentiate Kia's product range from Hyundai and our competitors," said Yong-Hwan Kim, senior executive vice president and COO of Kia Motors.

"We are committed to pursuing our strategy of 'glocalization' by focusing on Europe, as we strive to design and produce cars that satisfy sophisticated European tastes, as well as clearly demonstrating Kia's 'exciting and enabling' brand identity."

In addition to the design centre, the new building will be used by Kia Motors Europe to house its pan-European sales, marketing and after-sales operations, plus a sales academy, a technical service centre and the company's pan-European IT hub.

Kia's first European assembly plant is currently under construction in Zilina, Slovakia, and is on schedule to begin production at the end of 2006. The European headquarters will be the main trading partner for all Kia vehicles from Slovakia and Korea.

The construction of an integrated building for Kia Motors Europe's new headquarters and design centre is expected to be finished by February 2007 and ready to begin operations in March 2007. It will accommodate a total of 350 Kia personnel and other staff from affiliated groups in Europe.

Currently, the jointly operated Hyundai-Kia European R&D Centre is located in Russelsheim, Germany while Kia Motors Europe's headquarters is in Eschborn, Germany.