Ford Motor Co. and three South Korean auto firms submitted bids Friday for Kia Motors Co., the second biggest Korean automaker before it collapsed under heavy debts last year.

The three South Korean bidders were Hyundai Motor Co., Daewoo Motor Co, and Samsung Motors Inc. U.S.-based Ford already owns 16.9 percent of Kia.A 15-member panel will study the bids before it announces the successful bidder on Sept. 1, Kia's creditor banks said.

The successful bidder must buy at least 51 percent of the equity of Kia and its Asia Motors Corp. commercial vehicle arm.

The banks promised to write off nearly half Kia's $6.7 billion debt to make the failed company more attractive. Kia has $5.9 billion in assets.

In July, five companies, including General Motors Co., said they would bid for Kia and Asia Motors.

But GM pulled out in the last minute, Kia officials said. Friday was the deadline for submitting offers.

Kia remains under court receivership after filing for bankruptcy protection in July 1997. Its collapse helped erode investors' confidence in the Korean industries.

South Korea called in the International Monetary Fund in December to organize a record $58 billion bailout for its economy. The move to sell Kia is part of the government's effort to restructure the economy under the IMF bailout terms.

Kia produced 780,000 cars in 1997. Asia Motors can turn out 250,000 vehicles, mostly trucks and buses. The two companies employ more than 18,000 workers.