Kia is shooting higher than ever before with its new Cadenza.

Barely two decades after first arriving in the United States as a budget brand, the tables have turned on Kia. The brand once known for its low-buck, low-quality cars is now chasing after coveted luxury brands like Acura and Lexus with its new Cadenza flagship sedan, says Kia marketing chief Michael Sprague.

Although Sprague admits that Cadenza won't be a high-volume offering - just 12,000 are forecasted to be sold annually in the U.S. - the executive said that the automaker anticipates that the big four-door sedan will do an especially good job of bringing buyers used to luxury brands into its showrooms.

"That's where we see the opportunity," Sprague told industry journal Automotive News, speaking of Cadenza rivals like the Chrysler 300, Acura TL and Lexus ES 350.

The industry publication points out that while Kia's average new car transaction price has climbed from $19,285 to $22,896 since 2009, what's perhaps more important is that its incentive spending per car has declined from $3,410 to $1,705. Leading that trend is the company's Optima midsize sedan, which sold for $19,468 on average in 2009 and $25,477 so far this year.

Kia isn't aiming for high volume with the Cadenza like it does with the Optima, which leads its sales charts by a wide margin - more than 53,000 deliveries so far this year compared to about 40,000 for the next-closest Soul.