Hyundai Motor group's Kia brand is switching its focus from quantity to quality to try to raise profitability at a time when all its factories have little or no spare capacity.

Higher specified versions of existing cars at previously unthinkable prices will be joined by new halo models and technologies never before seen on a Kia.

A clue to the company's thinking can be seen in what is happening in America, where dealers are preparing for the launch of a flagship luxury saloon, the Quoris, that's likely to cost US$50,000 (GBP34,000)-plus.

To get buyers used to the idea of a Kia in that price bracket, lavishly equipped versions of two existing cars, the Optima and Cadenza, have gone on sale at significantly higher prices than anything previously offered.

The most expensive Optima now costs $35,000 (GBP24,000), when previously it was only $22,000 (GBP15,000), while the plushest Cadenza is now $43,000 (GBP29,000).

"We are starting to attract premium brand customers," said Soon-Nan Lee, Kia's head of overseas marketing. "In America the Cadenza is now a rival for BMW and Mercedes, not the Toyota Avalon."

Lee wants to see Kia America's success raising the perception of the brand extended to Europe to improve profitability. The Picanto is a model he singles out. Kia Europe can sell every Picanto it gets but in some markets makes little or no money on each sale.

"The Picanto is a very low-profit car," Lee says. "One strategy is to give it more of a luxury feel and make it more sporty with a high level of trim."

At the other end of the scale, the much-promised Kia sports car - hinted at by a series of motor show concepts - could finally become reality in 2016.

"We have a plan to produce a car based on the GT [2011 Frankfurt show concept]," said Lee. "We are mainly targeting the US but, three weeks ago at a general marketing conference, the head of Kia UK, Paul Philpott, came up to me and asked for a GT. You will see something in 2016." Kia is also considering adding a more hardcore version of the procee'd GT, its first hot hatch, which has been well received.

New powertrains will include a one litre, three cylinder, direct injection, turbocharged unit similar to Ford's smallest Ecoboost engine. This is destined for the cee'd in 2015.

Advanced technologies in the pipeline include greater use of telematics, shift by wire automatic transmissions, active safety, a multi feature, head up display unit and an around view monitor with life like visuals.

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