With a string of stylish and successful new models from the Soul to the Sportage, Kia’s design team is earning recognition for their hard work. And these creative minds know how to play just as hard. When we noticed a line of mountain bikers snaking into the hills from the Design Center after work, Open Road decided to get to the bottom of things by speaking with Exterior Design Manager Erik Klimisch, Senior Exterior Designer Mike Torpey, and Senior Interior Designer Brian White. Also featured above is Kia’s Steve Kosowski.
First off, how might Kia owners recognize your work?
Mike: I created the exterior design for the Kia Soul – first the concept car and then the production car. We each work on just about every project that comes through our studio, and our ideas influence each other until a particular design looks promising and becomes the momentum direction.
Erik: I’ve worked on everything from the 2006 Soul Concept to the 2011 Sportage.
Brian: I work on show car interiors, along with a number of initial production designs.
How did this mountain bike club come together?
Erik: Many of us were hired by Kia about five to six years ago from Detroit, and as you know Detroit doesn’t have mountains or year-round warm weather. Originally we had as many as 15 weekly riders, but that’s dwindled down.
Mike: Yeah, quite a few of us came out from Michigan to California when we joined Kia. It’s been great meeting all these people who are just as excited to check out the mountain bike scene out here, where there are some seriously big mountains.
How regularly do you guys ride?
Erik: Brian and I ride about four times a week, Mike a little less.
Mike: I would ride more – honest – but I don’t need to ride quite as often because I’m not quite as old and creaky as these guys.
Are you guys competitive?
Brian: I think it’s common knowledge that most mountain bikers play down how competitive they are when you talk to them, but get them out on a trail and it’s a completely different story.
What’s next from the design department?
Mike: As much as people really like our new vehicles, they’re going to be completely blown away by the next designs.
Brian: I agree, I think we've only begun.
Kia Motors Open Road Issue 7, Winter 2011