Russia's SOK Group, based in the city of Samara, has become official distributor of South Korean auto manufacturer Kia Motors in Russia, the company told the Prime-Tass news agency.

Under the framework of the deal, SOK Group has created the SOKIA company which, by the end of this year, plans to supply about 10,000 Kia cars to Russian buyers.

By 2008 SOKIA expects KIA's sales in Russia to reach 50,000 units annually, both imported and produced by Izhavto, part of SOK Group, which plans to start Spectra production in August 2005.

In the near future SOKIA plans to create a chain of dealerships in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other large Russian cities. By 2008 SOKIA plans a 100-strong network throughout Russia.

SOKIA is expected to supply dealers with Kia's full range of models, as well as coordinate an advertisement campaign, establish a nationwide price regulator and provide five-year guarantee.

SOKIA is expected to start its first supplies to dealers in June this year.

In 2004 Kia's car sales in Russia increased 51% year on year to 18,759 vehicles, including 14,021 vehicles sold by its largest Russian seller Avtotor.

In Russia, Kia sells the Rio, Magentis, Sephia, Spectra, Cerato, Picanto and Shuma cars, as well as the Sportage sports utility vehicle and other models.

SOK Group manages assets of about 40 companies, mainly in Russia's car manufacturing industry, Prime-Tass noted.