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Kia Irvine, Calif.

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In August, Kia Motors America entered the top 15 in the U.S. auto market for the first time since the line hit American showrooms in 1994. Sales through August of this year reached 180,670 units, up from 168,273 for the comparable period last year, up 7.4 percent and ahead of other imports such as Mitsubishi and Volkswagen. Kia's best-selling vehicle, the Sedona minivan, was up 9,000 units, and the Sorento SUV, up 7,000. The Optima sedan added 9,000 units to 31,650, and Kia's entry-level vehicle, the Rio, was also modestly up. One analyst characterized the carmaker's management team as "clever strategists," but the line has succeeded in part by borrowing from sibling Hyundai's strategic success. Since former Volvo top executive Peter Butterfield ar-rived in 2001 as CEO, the line has expanded and attempted to broaden its appeal with a "Safety. Quality. Value" message. With a lineup that now includes a luxury sedan, the Amanti, Kia wants a shop to help differentiate it from Hyundai, with the latter going after the older, wealthier luxury-for-less buyer and Kia skewing toward younger, more style-conscious purchasers.