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EVs to spell the end of Kia’s budget models

Premium electric vehicles in, cheap and cheerful models out, says Kia Oz

28 Jan 2022

KIA Australia says we can expect a steady progression towards a more premium product offering as the South Korean marque continues to repudiate its “cheap and cheerful” reputation.


For a brand once well-known for producing models that undercut those of mainstream rivals – albeit by offering lesser equipment levels, drivability, and performance – Kia has matured to become a mainstream player that now offers vehicles comparable in every metric with its European and Japanese rivals. 


And it’s a trend that seems set to continue. Speaking to GoAuto News at the local unveiling of the all-electric EV6 this week (see links below), Kia Australia product planning manager Roland Rivero explained that buyer expectations, coupled with an increased demand for battery-electric vehicles, more extensive technology offerings, as well as greater levels of safety and convenience features, meant that “bare bones” models – there were once synonymous with the South Korean manufacturer – were fast becoming things of the past.


“It’s about giving people what they want, and the beauty of the E-GMP modular platform is that it has the flexibility to host numerous size vehicles from as little as A- or B-segment size, all the way up to a Telluride-sized SUV – that flexibility gives us the scope to offer a great range of products in the near future,” he said.


“Down the track, there could easily be an entry-level offering that is, say a B-segment SUV, or even an A-segment SUV, that could probably fit in that mould. But it won’t be what I’d call ‘cheap and cheerful’. 


“We’ll aim to make it good value for money while representing what these electric cars are doing for Kia (elevating the brand). Each will be seen as the ‘halo offering’ within its particular segment,” Mr Rivero added.


When asked if there was a chance Kia could offer an electric version of a model the size and price of its current Picanto, Mr Rivero said the smallest end of the range is falling victim not only to increased customer expectation, but also to the cost of electrification technologies and increasingly strict safety standards.


“Size? Yes. Price? No. There are many factors that contribute to that (scenario), not least of which is how the brand wants to position itself globally. Kia is no longer the low-end ‘cheap and cheerful’ brand it once was – it is fast becoming a brand that is aimed at helping to enhance and elevate expectations,” he clarified.


“Our next BEV is going to be a well specified and particularly safety-oriented vehicle that is designed and equipped to exceed the continually evolving EuroNCAP and ANCAP safety protocols – you simply have to offer a lot better specification in order to achieve that maximum rating – and, for all of those reasons alone, I don’t think we’ll be able to push the price of an electric car down below that $19,990 figure.”


Kia Australia COO, Damien Meredith added that the brand would continue to deliver the same level of service and customer satisfaction it had become known for irrespective of the asking price of its product.


“We want to be as strong at selling cars with a $20,000 price tag and we do at cars with a $90,000 price tag. It’s not necessarily about being a premium brand, it’s about being a strong brand,” he said.


“It’s difficult because what you’re doing is stretching the brand. But Kia has grown to become resilient and robust quite quickly, because we’ve got wonderful product and because we’ve improved in so many areas.


“But it remains important to use that whether we’re selling a $20,000 Picanto or a $90,000 EV6, that the brand allows the same experience to occur – and that’s both from us and the dealer network. That’s what is important to us and that’s probably a real point of difference for our brand,” Mr Meredith emphasised.


And while it seems Kia will continue to push its mainstream product range upstream, the brand says it will not introduce a Genesis-style premium arm, nor dedicated sports division a la Hyundai N.


“N was developed purely for the ‘blue team’ and, obviously, while we still have GT and GT-Line variants, there won’t be a distinctive ‘N-style’ brand. That’s not to say our models won’t be as quick or as capable, the eGT EV6, for example, will be a direct rival for the IONIQ 5 N,” Mr Rivero outlined. 


“Naming is one thing, but product is another. We’ll still have equivalent performance models within our range that will directly take-on respective N cars – particularly on the electric-vehicle side of the equation. But there a no plans to have an N-style sub-brand entering the fold,” he concluded.


The Kia EV6 goes on sale locally from February.


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