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Stakes grow bigger for Kia in India

The carmaker is working on its first localised EV but will continue to be open to technologies demanded by its customers

Published: Dec 18, 2023 04:51:31 PM IST
Updated: Dec 18, 2023 05:04:33 PM IST

Stakes grow bigger for Kia in IndiaBy 2025, Kia India plans to launch a relatively affordable electric vehicle (EV) in the country by this time with the hopes of reaching a 10,000-unit yearly sales target.  
 
Kia’s India run has been one for which most carmakers would give a limb, in a market with as much room for growth as ours. Since its debut in 2019, it has become the fourth-largest carmaker in the country and has held this spot largely unchallenged since.

A keen understanding of the Indian consumer has meant that most of its products have hit the spot, no doubt helped by the experience of parent firm Hyundai. India is now Kia’s fourth largest market globally, accounting for 10 percent of global sales, only behind South Korea, USA and Europe. Kia’s cars have quickly built up a reputation of being smart to look at, rich feel inside, and packed to the gills with tech while still maintaining good value. While safety concerns still linger, Kia India has also done better than most to shore up a premium image while starting from a mainstream position. It’s addressed underserved segments with pricey but value-packed offerings like the Carnival MPV and EV6 EV, both of which have been well-received.

In a similar vein, Kia has built up a sizeable manufacturing presence in the country and used the country’s strengths in low-cost manufacturing and infrastructure to turn its operations here into a major export hub. Its most affordable offering in the country, the Kia Sonet, is now also exported to 100 countries globally.

But by 2025, Kia India will be well on its way with possibly its most ambitious move in the country. The company plans to launch a relatively affordable electric vehicle (EV) in the country by this time with the hopes of reaching a 10,000-unit yearly sales target.

Speaking at a recent round table interaction, Tae-Jin Park, MD and CEO said of this plan,” When we launch the EV next year here, it will be specially designed for the Indian market. So, we have a, we will have a world premiere for it here in India. So, that model is not based on the E-GMP architecture. You have never seen that kind of EV from Kia before anywhere in the world. So this is very unique for the Indian market.”

Park also provided some more details about this new EV for India. He said that the Kia EV will have more range than the current segment-leading Tata Nexon EV, which should mean somewhere around 500 km on a full charge. He also said that the EV will be heavily localised for the Indian market. The company is working with local suppliers to make this happen, although like with its competitors, battery cells will have to be imported into India for this EV. There is still isn’t a fully-developed battery cell manufacturing ecosystem in place in the country, although Kia is working with suppliers to change that.

Also read: Hybrid or EVs: What's better for you?

 It’s fair to assume that the Kia EV will share the same mechanicals as the upcoming Hyundai Creta EV, which is also scheduled to launch in a similar time frame. Unlike the more upmarket E-GMP EVs from these brands, these will most likely be based on existing ICE architectures to keep costs in check.

But Kia isn’t just stopping at EVs. The company will carry on with its policy to offer fuel types and variants as per market demand. The reintroduction of a diesel manual in the Sonet is one such move but this also extends to hybrids.

Park elaborated by saying, “We definitely have our own hybrid technology in our South Korean home market. But currently the percentage of hybrids in the total sales volume in India is 2.5 percent. This is also the only for Toyota and some cars. So also we are looking at the possibility of introducing hybrids in India. But this is depending on the customer’s demand and also depends on some regulation in India. In the future, the next three or four years the emission regulations becoming much more stringent will also be a factor.”

So, we are preparing step by step. Not just introducing hybrid, but looking at reducing emissions. The market is not sure currently, and if the market demands the hybrid, we will introduce these technologies.”

Kia India is also open to continue to less high-end premium EVs as imports in the country, but like the EV6, this will be dependent on customer demand. Park ended by saying that Kia India is open to the proposed tariff cuts to favour new entrants like Tesla. This would help it bring in more models from its global portfolio but it was waiting for the government’s final decision on the matter.
 

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