Skip to main content

Kia may not be a luxury automaker, but many of the vehicles it’s been producing lately, like the Telluride, will have you questioning whether it could be going forward. The South Korean automaker had rather humble beginnings, however, that began with a single vehicle. So what car was this, and is it still in production?

Have you heard of the Brisa?

Kia has been in business since 1944, when it began as the Kyungsung Precision Industry. The name later changed to Kia in 1952, and the name means ‘rising out of Asia.’ Like many other automakers, Kia didn’t begin by producing cars. Instead, it made the first domestic bicycle in South Korea.

It continued to produce bicycles, and later added trucks and motorbikes to its lineup, according to EZ Auto. It wasn’t until 1974 that Kia released its first car, known as the Brisa.

This cute little subcompact car didn’t have a long run. It was only produced from 1974-1981. It could have seen a longer run if the government hadn’t decided to enforce industry consolidation to focus on military vehicles, which led to Kia temporarily putting aside all cars in favor of light trucks. Once Kia returned to cars, the Brisa was officially shelved.

It wasn’t an overly powerful car, but it had a decent engine. The engines ranged from 985-1272cc, and could produce anywhere from 45.5-64 kW hp. 

Even though the Brisa is far from being one of Kia’s most popular vehicles, or one that is even remembered fondly for that matter, it opened the door for Kia to continue producing cars thanks to a partnership with Ford.

When did Kia begin selling in the U.S.?

It would be a few years before Kia opened its first dealership in the U.S. It did very well in South Korea, and spread out into other countries from there. Even though it didn’t bring the Brisa back from the automotive grave, Kia did invest time and money into several other cars that performed very well.

It wasn’t until 1992 that Kia came to America. The South Korean Automaker was swift to spread out, and by 1995, it had opened over 100 dealerships in the U.S. Americans were eager to buy, and in this short period of time, Kia sold 24,000 vehicles. Even though Kia was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1998, it managed to keep its foothold in America by partnering with Hyundai Motors.

Kia has really evolved over the years

Kia is not the same company it was when it first began producing cars in 1974. There have been a lot of changes over the years, and while all have not been great, Kia has continued to grow and evolve into the company so many have grown to love and trust.

For a few years, the South Korean automaker had a bit of a reputation for developing cars that were of lower quality. In fact, Kia was a joke amongst many auto lovers, and in spite of its best efforts, it was mainly consumers on a budget who chose to drive Kias. The prices were always affordable, so it allowed people to buy a new car who would otherwise have to buy used.

Kia has worked extremely hard to turn this reputation around, however, and is now one of the most reliable automakers in the business. The Telluride is one of the most sought after SUVs on the market, and other vehicles in the lineup like the Sorento is basking in the praise of critics.

It has been quite the ride for Kia since it first released the Brisa in 1974, but the company has gone above and beyond what anyone could have ever imagined for it.


Why You Should Ignore the Fearmongering Surrounding the Kia Forte’s ‘Poor’ IIHS Crash Test Ratings