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Big Kia investment in local suspension tuning

First in line: Kia’s Optima was the first of the South Korean car-maker’s new models to shape its suspension system for Australian roads.

Kia draws on the world’s best to deliver the right ride and handling for Australia

17 Apr 2013

KIA Australia has given more insight into its local suspension tuning program, revealing that it is a “substantial” cost to the company – but worth it.

The South Korean car-maker’s Australian senior product manager, Jeff Shafer, told GoAuto the small five-member team spent weeks working on its tuning for cars sold here.

“It’s a substantial cost to us,” Mr Shafer said at the launch of the updated Kia Cerato in Australia last week. “I won’t say how much, but it is a big cost.” Mr Shafer said his team, which includes engineering consultant Graeme Gambold, worked by the roadside changing suspension components on the fly to try and iron out the setup best suited to Australian conditions.

“Graeme is very good at just jumping behind the wheel of the car, driving it and then saying what is wrong,” he said.

“He can jump in a car and take it for a drive, and come back and say ‘the left-hand rear wheel is out of balance’.

“We check it, and sure enough it is out of balance,” Mr Shafer said.

However, while the Australian team knows what it wants before every Kia product is launched here, the problem facing Kia Australia is ensuring the engineers back in Korea understand the changes it wants to make.

“The biggest problem for us is the language barrier, and making sure the engineers back in Korea know what we’re asking,” Mr Shaffer said. “Sometimes that is lost in communication.” The work Kia Australia does also feeds back into Kia’s international operations. Mr Shaffer said his team also visited Korea regularly to drive products developed for other markets, picking the best of the international tunings to create the foundations for its localised settings.

“We drive all the cars that have been developed overseas and see how that can be applied to the cars we’re tuning here.

“Some of them aren’t as good, but some are better than what we do here, and we try and understand why before we try the same thing.” Kia’s localised tuning program started with the Kia Optima mid-size sedan, which was roundly criticised for its poor ride and handling when the vehicle was launched in Australia in 2010.

Mr Shafer said Kia would continue to tune the suspension systems of its models to local tastes “for the foreseeable future”.

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