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Kia to stay lean, focus on green tech

Emissions free: Kia’s first electric vehicle was the Soul, but more models, including a hydrogen fuel-cell-powered car, are on the cards.

Green fuel tech focus to grow but niche model segments unlikely for Kia for now

Kia logo13 Mar 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON

KIA will maintain a lean model line-up for the time being as it looks to strengthen its position globally and, eventually, introduce more alternative powertrain offerings.

The South Korean car-maker has been open about its intentions to grow volume in the markets it competes, but Kia Motors Europe chief operating officer Michael Cole told GoAuto that the company was not currently planning to extend it reach into new segments, such as coupe-style SUVs.

“This (Stinger) was the car that you layer on top of all of the commercially important cars,” he said on the Kia stand at the Geneva motor show. “I look at it from a European perspective, and if we compete in A, B, C and D segment and then with SUVs and crossovers in those segments, then really to be honest, as a mainstream brand that is where we are.

“But we would never rule out, as the brand keeps building, could we do other things. But there are no plans. Right now it is focus on what we now term as core segments.”

When pressed about an expansion into more niche segments, Kia Motors president and chief design officer Peter Schreyer was coy, saying:“We are working on a lot of things and so we are constantly building up and we are working on a lot of stuff, so&hellip.”

With the Stinger arriving as a niche offering in the four-door performance sedan segment, Kia now covers most of the key passenger and SUV segments, except for the sub-compact SUV, which is due in 2019.

Mr Cole added that the market is far more complex now compared with when he started in the industry 25 years ago, and said a big focus was now on electrification and other alternative powertrain tech.

“The big thing is all of our eco products and how we evolve that range of the brand. Particularly in Europe, it is so important with the CO2 regulations. We have got them today but it gets much more challenging in 2020.”

Kia offers a few electrified variants in some markets, including the Soul EV, a hybrid and plug-in hybrid version of the Optima and the Niro hybrid and plug-in crossover.

According to Mr Cole, there are more on the way, including the mooted hydrogen fuel-cell model that will share tech with sister company Hyundai, with the future Kia line-up including a spread of different technologies.

“We have been very clear on our strategy and that is to focus not on one particular type of powertrain … so whether it is electric, hybrid, plug in, mild hybrid. We are looking at fuel-cell of course and we will have a car on the road in 2020.

“But it is very much about understanding within each segment of each size, what is the most appropriate technology rather than going down the path of one route.” As previously reported, Kia Motors Australia is holding off on introducing electrified models until there is more infrastructure to support buyers and a green car incentive program introduced by the federal government.

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