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Frankfurt show: Kia commits to first EV by 2014

Early days: Kia unveiled its first all-electric concept car - based on the Venga - at last year's Geneva motor show (Green car at bottom is the Naimo EV crossover concept).

Kia’s first all-electric vehicle could hit Australian showrooms within three years

Kia logo15 Sep 2011

By MARTON PETTENDY

KIA Motors Australia is working on a plan to land an all-electric compact SUV in local showrooms within three years.

The audacious Korean car-maker announced at this week’s Frankfurt motor show that it will introduce its first battery-electric production vehicle – in the form of an all-new zero-emissions small crossover – globally by 2014.

Kia’s senior product manager in Australia, Nick Reid, told GoAuto the chances of Kia’s first EV being sold in Australia were strong, because other right-hand drive markets such as the UK had also expressed a keen interest in the ground-breaking model.

“We’ve put our hand up for the car and I think we should be right, because the UK wants it too and that should ensure there’s sufficient volume to justify RHD,” he said.

If successful, the move would see Kia skip the more popular hybrid vehicle craze and go directly to the all-electric vehicle stage in Australia, where Kia’s Optima hybrid is not available because it is not built in RHD.

Some reports have speculated the unnamed electric vehicle will be a battery-powered version of the second-generation Soul, which Kia itself classifies as a crossover utility vehicle (CUV).

However, GoAuto understands the follow-up to Kia’s original box-shaped city cruiser, a facelifted version of which is due on sale in Australia by November, is on track to be revealed late next year, before being released globally in 2013.

17 center imageFrom top: Kia Sportage, Optima hybrid, Picanto, Soul.

As we’ve reported, design work for the MkII Soul started in 2009 under the guidance of Sportage and Rio hatch stylist Massimo Fraschella, an Italian based at Kia’s North American studio in Irvine, California.

It is expected to feature a racier profile with slimmer detailing and a wider stance than the current Soul, while retaining the boxy proportions and ‘cute’ personality that have helped make it a success in many parts of the world since its 2008 unveiling.

Like Toyota’s conceptually similar Rukus, however, the Soul has remained a niche model in Australia, where Kia sold just 387 examples last year – down from 407 in 2009.

If Kia’s first EV does not come in the form of an electric version of the redesigned Soul, it could emerge as an all-new dedicated-electric crossover, which would be a direct rival for upcoming EVs like Nissan’s Leaf and Renault’s Fluence ZE, and plug-in hybrids like the Holden Volt, all of which are due on sale here next year.

Before the small EV crossover goes on sale in 2014, Kia said it would commence fleet trials of another unnamed small EV in Korea in early 2012.

Kia also used the Frankfurt show to announce it plans to increase global sales to 2.4 million vehicles this year, including 300,000 in Europe – an increase of 30 per cent in three years.

Kia said it will release 20 new models in Europe between now and 2014, starting with a redesigned Cee’d small car and the Optima hybrid in mid-2012. Mainstream versions of the Optima – powered by 2.0-litre GDI petrol and 1.7-litre turbo-diesel engines – go on sale in Europe later this year, as Kia’s first D-segment vehicle there.

It said the new Venga and latest Sportage had generated major European sales growth since 2010, while the May launch of the new Picanto had attracted a new buyer demographic to the brand.

As in Australia, the new Rio went on sale in Europe this month, and is expected to lift Kia’s sales in Europe’s largest vehicle segment from 20,000 to 80,000 sales.

Kia revealed its first three-door Rio at Frankfurt before it goes on sale in both Australia and Europe in early 2012.

It said that combined with the three-door and five-door versions of the new Picanto – which is under consideration for sale in Australia – the Cee’d and Optima will give Kia coverage of 70 per cent of Europe’s new car market.

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