By on December 16, 2019


Kia recently revealed the best bundle of teaser images we’ve ever seen, as those pics left nothing to the imagination. And while we now know what the 2021 K5/Optima will look like, as it turns out, we don’t know what it will be called. Piqued by the brand filing patents for a new logo in Korea, everyone started digging to see what other changes Kia might be making behind the scenes… and it would appear that the Optima may adopt the Korean market’s K5 moniker for use overseas.

While that should help minimize international confusion, ditching the Optima name comes with a few risks. The sedan is among the brand’s best selling models in the United States. It also has a real name, like most Kia products, instead of an alphanumeric jumble that’s supposed to be indicative of its place in the lineup. 

Kia’s only car without a Christian name here in North America, the K900, is among the region’s worst selling vehicles. The manufacturer only managed to move 354 last year (no, that isn’t a typo) and 2019 doesn’t look promising for a stronger showing. One could blame that on it being beyond what people would expect from the brand in terms of luxury or perhaps unable to stack up with Genesis’ fancier G90 — which has a better sales record. But the name has to have something to do with it, right?

Americans will tolerate alphanumeric names on premium vehicles in part to show off its (presumably German, maybe Japanese) badge. But that’s not something that carries over to mainstream product. Heck, people complained when Lincoln and Cadillac tried it. Yet that’s what Kia intends to do with the Optima, according to reports from both the Korean Car Blog and Motor1.

There aren’t a lot of details, just the assertion that Kia has already decided to make the change. A Kia spokesperson has stated that the company has made no official announcements regarding the new Optima and cannot comment on product at this time. They told Motor1 that too, adding “Regardless of the badge, Optima remains an important component of Kia’s award-winning lineup of vehicles.”

Sounds like we may have to get used to writing “K5” instead of Optima.


[Images: Kia Motors]

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24 Comments on “Kia Optima May Be Due for a Name Change...”

  • avatar

    The stupid, it burns.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I favor real, evocative names. While Mustang is a compelling offering, I believe the name adds a certain special “X factor” that move if from compelling to irresistible.

    As for Kia products, which are generally purchased for the value proposition and practicality–not aspiration, I think the names are less important.

    K5 is meaningless to me, but a well equipped, feature packed family sedan priced under Camry/Accord…sure, you’ve got my attention anyway.

  • avatar

    Did GM not renew the trademark?

  • avatar

    I think in certain situations, it could work. Kia is not aspirational among most people, but I know many people who have had them and have been very happy. Perhaps when it is time for them to buy again, they’ll stay within the brand if they perceive it as moving upmarket. Alpha-numeric designations are usually the purview of pricier Euro offerings, and more of a technical product vs. a marketing fantasy. Maybe this move would play by attracting more buyers. I’m agnostic either way really.

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Kia can borrow a page from Nissan and do a “Stanza Altima” transition year – Optima K5. Then again, perhaps Nissan isn’t the best company to imitate.

  • avatar

    I would be in favor of them dropping their current logo here in the USA for the stylized “K” they use in Korea. I’ve seen a few Optima turbos and Stingers rebadged that way.

    So you have the K900 which is not called the “K9” like it is at home because of the American association between “K9” and “Canine”.

    If you want to be consistent then the Optima should become K500. Of course this begs the question: “What is the Kia Cadneza” called in Korea?” Logic would dictate K7.

    • 0 avatar
      Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

      The Cadenza is in fact called the K7 in its home market.

      I’ve liked the “musical terms” naming strategy with Kia’s U.S. cars (and Hyundai’s Sonata) and would argue that at least Forte and Optima have genuine brand equity. Rebranding to generic alphanumeric model designations would be a mistake.

  • avatar

    Did Johann get a new job at KIA?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The Optima name has a lot of equity in the US market, and it shouldn’t be squandered by lazily harmonizing the product name for worldwide use.

  • avatar

    I know what an Optima is. I have no idea what a Q60, Q70, Q50, QX70 are.

    Hey Kia, is there anybody out there?

  • avatar

    Sounds like a marketer is bored at work.

  • avatar

    Are you Mercedes, BMW, Audi, or Lexus?


    Then you need model names. Those are the only four brands that are so strong they can stand on their own with forgettable alphabet-soup model names.

    Acura lost its mojo when “Legend” and “Integra” disappeared and has never regained it. Lincoln brought back names (good ones!) and is on the upswing. Cadillac is just now figuring it out after spending five years in the sales sh!tter. Nobody can figure out what a Genesis is.

    The idea of trading “Optima” for “K5” is unbearably stupid.

    • 0 avatar

      Just to add to this…

      How much more inspired would Honda have been when creating the Acura TLX if the previous two generations of TSX had been named “Integra” and the car had to carry that legacy? I promise you the actual product would have been better defined, more interesting, and more competitive in its segment. It might have even had a manual transmission.

      Similarly, the company would have known it could never get away with the overpriced Lexus ES clone that is the current RLX if it had to live up to the “Legend” name.

      Names tell your customers what your products are about. They also tell your planners, designers, and engineers what standards they have to uphold.

      • 0 avatar

        I think that the alphanumeric codes for German and Japanese cars work because they “rhyme” with consumer perceptions of the industrial culture in those nations. I know that hasn’t worked out well for US brands. I am not sure if that will work out well for Kia or Hyundai. I don’t think Korea has a very strong “mindshare” or “flavor” for most consumers. Though, perhaps it should, based on Samsung’s success in the Android phone market of the last few years.

        If you take Samsung as an example of a potentially successful branding strategy, their best product combines a distinctive name (“Galaxy”) with an alphanumeric code (such as “S8” for example). So maybe “Optima K5” would be a good way to market the vehicle to consumers.

        A possible point of reference could also be seen in the way Mazda branded the MX-5 Miata. The “Miata” name was only used in North America (though I am not sure how that initial decision was reached). Around 2005, Mazda tried to drop the “Miata” name and just call the product the MX-5. People didn’t like that and just continued calling it the Miata, and eventually Mazda seemed to just accept the use of both names.

    • 0 avatar

      “Nobody can figure out what a Genesis is.”

      their sales figures prove that. I don’t know why they keep at it.

  • avatar

    So what we have now Kia K5? Very like Pontiac G5 and thats why: both are profanation of “sport” sedan and in naming scheme respective companies imply them being luxury cars. Another BMW killer for sure. Where Cadillac and Infiniti failed Kia will succeed – they only need to change the name.

  • avatar

    I second the question about GM’s trademark.

    However, given what was said about the K900, I wonder if a plan is in the works to call it the K5 Optima and affix the Optima name in some way to the K900.

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