Kia and sister company Hyundai are interesting figures in the electric vehicle world. They have often been chosen as favorite EV brands only trailing Tesla. They have historically been ahead of the curve when it comes to EV design and range. This has given many people the impression they’re “more serious about” electric vehicles than other automakers.
I’ve mostly had a different opinion. Because they didn’t produce these EVs in volume, couldn’t come close to matching consumer demand and didn’t seem to be trying hard to get there, and were “surprised” by how much demand there was for even the first-generation Kia Soul EV (which had a tiny number of sales in the US due to Kia producing a tiny number of cars), I have generally assumed that Kia had good EV designers and developers as well as generally talented engineers who knew how to design efficient vehicles, but that the leadership of the company didn’t have the vision or interest to use that as a true competitive advantage in the long term. I hoped strong consumer interest — evident to EV followers years ago — would lead to more aggressive EV plans and production. They never came.
In 2020, it’s obvious to everyone in the auto world and their mother that electric vehicles are the future. Outside of Tesla, it seems Volkswagen Group has the most ambitious plans and actual action to ramp up production capacity. (Okay, Volvo’s got a more ambitious target, but it’s a small player and I have a hard time seeing that change.) Quite a while after Volkswagen announced some relatively big (for the industry) EV production targets, Kia has followed suit. That said, the terminology and targets are confusing.
A recent Kia press release indicated that the company would offer 11 EVs by 2025. We’re already in confusing territory. Presumably, that means 11 fully electric models (not plug-in hybrids or conventional hybrids). However, in some portions of the press release the company writes “EV” and in some portions “BEV” (which is commonly used for fully electric vehicles) and it’s not clear if they’re used interchangeably or “EV” includes plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). I’m reaching out to Kia to get clarification if possible. For the remainder of this article, I’m presuming EVs are BEVs, but they may well be BEVs + PHEVs.
Kia doesn’t mention the word “hybrid” once in its press release. Instead, it introduced the term “ecofriendly vehicles,” which presumably includes everything except a fully fossil-powered vehicle. (Don’t get us started.)
With that context out of the way, here are key targets Kia announced in what it called its “Plan S” strategy:
- 11 EV models in production by 2025
- 500,000 annual EV sales by 2026 (excluding China)
- 1 million annual “ecofriendly vehicle” sales by 2026
- 25% of Kia sales “ecofriendly vehicles” by end of 2025 (which basically means ~12.5% of Kia sales should be EVs)
- 1 dedicated EV model (only an electric option — like the Nissan LEAF or BMW i3)
- Kia gobbling up 6.6% of non-China global EV sales by end of 2025 (which means Kia is expecting ~7,575,757 EV sales a year outside of China — Volkswagen and Tesla together are targeting more than half of that total, based on my back-of-the-napkin calculations)
“The Plan S strategy outlines Kia’s preemptive and enterprising ‘shift’ from a business system focused on internal combustion engine vehicles toward one centered on electric vehicles and customized mobility solutions,” the company adds.
Of course, like every automaker, it also intends to be a leader on autonomous vehicle development.
Why does all of this exclude China? I’m not sure, but I assume that Kia is uncertain about what Chinese policy will be, and knows that it basically has to adjust its lineup to match Chinese policy as needed. In other words, it’s a bit of a wild card.
“Plan S will see Kia Motors invest a total of 29 trillion won (US $25 billion) by the end of 2025 to establish leadership in vehicle electrification and diversify its business.”
Lastly, as I recommended several years ago, it appears that Kia is on the verge of launching a new brand/sub-brand focused on EVs: “Kia’s new brand system, which is slated to be revealed in the second half of this year, is currently being formulated under clear objectives. This includes becoming a pioneer in the age of EVs, a brand beloved by the millennial generation (those with a good grasp of information technology born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, a period witnessing the transition from the analog to the digital era) and Z generation (those born after the mid-1990s and grown up largely in a digital environment with a natural inclination for using digital tools, hence their nickname, ‘digital natives’), and a symbol of challenge and innovation.”
So, what do you say? Does Kia have a “pioneering” approach here? Is it an EV leader? Are these targets likely to be beaten early, or missed? Do you think the coming brand renovation will result in a Kia EV lineup that’s competitive with the Volkswagen ID brand? Will it be competitive with Tesla’s mass-market offerings (the Model 3, Model Y, and perhaps Cybertruck)?
Also, if Kia’s estimate of ~7,575,757 EV sales a year outside of China by 2025 is somewhat accurate, how do you expect those to be split out by auto company?