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Global demand aces Kia’s Oz Open EV launch plans

Smash hit: Kia’s e-Niro has been a global hit, meaning the Australian launch has been delayed until sometime in 2020.

Kia e-Niro launch date slips out in 2020, sinking hopes for a tennis open smash

7 Aug 2019

STRONG worldwide demand for Kia’s new electric models, the e-Niro and Soul EV, appears to have unplugged Kia Motors Australia’s hopes for an electric-car splash at the Kia-sponsored Australian Open tennis tournament in January.


The Australian branch of the South Korean car company is now unlikely to get stocks of e-Niro in time for a market launch at the event, and even more unlikely to get a shipment of the slightly smaller Soul EV by then.


The South Korean company is favouring markets that support electric vehicle (EV) sales with tax breaks and other incentives, meaning Australia – where governments give no special support to such vehicles – has to wait in the ever-growing queue.


GoAuto understands that KMAu has been told the e-Niro, which is already on sale in Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States and elsewhere, will arrive here “in 2020”, but not in time for the annual tennis tournament in Melbourne in the New Year.


The Soul EV is even less certain, with Kia headquarters in Seoul yet to confirm Australian launch plans.


In March, KMAu chief operating officer Damien Meredith told motoring journalists that he hoped to launch the e-Niro and Soul EV simultaneously at the 2020 Australian Open to take advantage of the biggest sports sponsorship in the Kia universe.


The vision included a large fleet of electric guest cars to shuttle the players and officials between their hotels and Melbourne Park.


Kia has used this strategy to launch new models for a number of years – a device that has helped to make Kia one of the fastest-growing vehicle brands in Australia.


However, the proposal looks increasingly unlikely, with the e-Niro a sell-out success overseas and the factory unable to meet existing demand.


Mr Meredith foreshadowed this problem when speaking in March, saying: “Supply is a real issue for us, with all EVs.”


KMAu had gone as far as having preliminary talks 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 which kicks off on January 20.


In the UK, the entire 2019 allocation of e-Niro was sold out before a single vehicle was delivered, and potential buyers now face a long wait into 2020 for delivery.


Kia has been working with its battery suppliers LG Chem and Samsung to ramp up lithium-ion battery production to help meet the demand, but that is only likely to ease the bottleneck in supply to existing markets in the short term.


While the new era of Kia motoring might take a while to dawn in Australia, an old era is fast vanishing with the execution of slow-selling passenger-car models.


The Rondo small people-mover, petrol-powered Soul small wagon and Optima mid-size sedan have all been discontinued, with only the Optima still available in any numbers in dealerships.


KMAu ceased ordering the slow-selling Optima from the factory some time ago and is allowing the current stock to wind down naturally.


The right-hand-drive Optima goes out of production in October, and KMAu will not take the next-generation vehicle to be launch in other markets as a 2020 model.


Meanwhile, a 2020 model-year Stinger large sedan has come on stream, offering the small improvements – more insulation in the roof, for example.


Mainly because of the sliding Australian dollar, prices for Kia’s rear-wheel-drive flagship have gone up by between $300 and $800, depending on the variant.


The Stinger range now kicks off at $46,990 plus on-road costs with the four-cylinder 200S and tops out at $59,990 for the V6 GT.

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