KIA Motors Australia is planning “exceptionally well-priced” electric vehicles for the Australian market when its first two all-electric models – the e-Niro and Soul EV – make their local debut with a splash at the Kia-sponsored Australian Tennis Open in Melbourne next January.
KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith told Australian motoring journalists that like the current Kia range, the new EVs would be offered at a competitive price.
“We have some things that haven’t been announced yet that I think will send a shudder through the school of EVs,” he said. “I think some of our EVs will be exceptionally well priced.”
The e-Niro SUV and Soul EV small crossover wagon have both been confirmed for Australia where they are both set to land in showrooms in the first half of 2020 – supply willing.
Another EV concept car, dubbed Imagine by Kia, was unveiled at the annual Geneva motor show overnight, while a fourth vehicle – possibly a larger SUV – is in the development pipeline.
Mr Meredith said his company wants to make a major statement about its EV future at the Australian Open by employing a 100 per cent electric fleet of vehicles to shuttle players, officials and other VIPs between airports, hotels, the Melbourne Tennis Centre and other engagements.
He said the fleet would be made up of e-Niro and Soul EV cars, both of which are on the launch agenda for Australia.
Mr Meredith said the company had started negotiations with the Melbourne City Council, Victorian government and Tennis Australia about support to establish car charging facilities for the Australian Open fleet at next year’s event.
He said the talks had begun about three weeks ago and were ongoing.
“We need points to charge 100 cars overnight so they are ready to go the next day,” he said.
Mr Meredith confirmed that the event would double as the Australian launch for the Kia EV range, but he stopped short of saying the e-Niro and Soul EV would be available in showrooms for test drive at that time.
He said the American and European markets were getting priority for EV exports which were restricted because of global demand and a lack of battery production.
“We would like to go all-electric at the 2020 Australian Open,” he said. “I think that would be an amazing way to launch our EV range.
“But supply is a real issue for us, with all EVs. If we can get the cars, that is what you are going to see at that time.”
Prospective buyers will at least be able to put their hand up for one of the VIP fleet cars that will be sold after providing transport for the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena Williams.
The e-Niro was due to be launched in the last quarter of this year, but the supply issues pushed the event back to the first quarter of 2020, fortuitously into January when the Australian Open is held annually.
Mr Meredith said that apart from the e-Niro and Soul EV, two more unnamed Kia EV models were on the Kia development roster, but he was not sure of the launch dates.
He added that KMAu’s product planning manager was in South Korea this week discussing these plans.
Kia Motors’ stated aim is to launch 44 electrified models – including hybrids and plug-in hybrids – by 2025 when production is expected to hit 1.67 million a year.
Mr Meredith reiterated that Kia Australia was planning to forgo the hybrid vehicle phase and go straight to all-electric cars which, he said, were the future of the motor industry.
He also repeated his view that electric vehicle subsidies were not required because it was the industry’s job to introduce these new technologies.
“I don’t want any money off the government,” he said. “They put that money into infrastructure.”
Mr Meredith said he believed in EVs and that the market was headed that way.
“I reckon in five years’ time, EVs will be about five per cent of the total market,” he said.
“I believe that if we want to keep on keep on improving the brand we have to do these types of things,” he said.
“The consumers need to understand that we are at the cutting edge of these types of vehicles.
“We probably all agree that getting two per cent, three per cent, four per cent with EVs is going to be a hard job, but as I said, we have a responsibility to put that forward.”
Mr Meredith said Kia had already started training dealers for the new generation of EVs and was working on a sales and marketing strategy for the new era.
“Probably within the next three months we should have our strategy in place on how we represent EV sales,” he said.
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