Thursday, 13 December 2012

Kia looks to buff image with value, new designs

At the 800-acre Kia Motors plant in this coastal city overlooking the Yellow Sea, there is scant evidence of the tumultuous past that almost killed the company. Workers, who routinely took to the streets a decade ago to seek job protection and to protest management decisions, now break for soccer matches on three artificial-turf fields. Dorms provide lodging for unmarried employees. A company hospital and fire station are just a few steps from the factory entrance. Inside, an employee cafĂ© sits at the center of the factory floor. Parts of Kia's largest plant seem almost idle — until you follow the loud whirring noises coming from behind glass walls where robots weld, coat and mount parts around the clock. With a mollified workforce and enhanced automation, the Hwasung plant is running at full capacity: It built 547,000 vehicles last year to meet growing global demand. South Korea's Kia has flourished through the recent years of industry turmoil, thanks to initiatives begun in 2005 to turn around a reputation for cheap cars of dubious reliability and create a lineup of quality vehicles with cutting-edge design.

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