Kia is painting a picture of its new electrified future and how its seven new dedicated EV will slot into the landscape over the next six years, with high-performance variants and a significant nomenclature restructure on the way.
The first of Kia’s new electric vehicles will make its debut before the end of March this year, introducing its first model to roll out on a specific ‘skateboard’ battery-electric platform.
Little is known about the car, other than it will take the form of a crossover and will offer about 500km of range.
However, Kia president and CEO Hosung Song revealed that all-electric models will be offered as a high-performance variant under the main Kia brand, and not a sub-brand akin to Hyundai’s N range.
“Yes, we are planning to launch the high-performance version of the electrification models including our first dedicated EV, which will be delivered the first quarter of this year, but still this is under the brand of Kia,” he told WhichCar.
The introduction of more athletic, dynamically capable Kias will shift the brand’s image more toward the exciting end of the spectrum, with fast machinery being underrepresented in the current line-up.
But the warmed-up electric Kia range will not pack the punch to rival Hyundai’s i30 N, Veloster N or Kona N full-fat petrol-powered models, said Kia global customer experience division head, Artur Martins.
“The high-performance of Kia is about excitement to drive. It’s not so much in the [Hyundai] N or [BMW] M territory, to mention a different manufacturer, of being prepared for track,” he said.
“So all performance cars will not be track cars, but really, consumers can experience and be excited by driving using in their daily lives – going to work, going to visit their parents or travelling with their family.”
That level of performance is likely to be positioned toward the top of the performance pack, matching Kia’s existing driver-focused models such as the Cerato GT, but underneath the more potent Stinger GT.
Exactly what the model will be dubbed is yet to be confirmed but the company has shared that the entire model line-up including combustion and electric-powered offerings will be subject to a significant renaming to align the nomenclature globally.
It is now known that the family of electric cars will be named simply EV1 to EV9, while the rest of the Kia family names will also be simplified to align with the new EV family model names, according to Martins.
“We are adapting the alphanumeric in our sedans globally,” he said. “Basically all the cars – mainly sedans – will be K and a number. We’re also going to have a very simple naming architecture for the EV cars.
“We have very strong nameplates like Sportage, Telluride and Carnival. Some of those we’re going to keep but really, the idea is to have a much more simple naming approach for the future and to make it global.”
Kia Australia is yet to confirm which, if any, of the locally sold models will get a different badge, but vehicles like the Cerato and Rio would be likely candiates.
The E-GMP platform on which the family of EVs is based will be shared with sister brands Hyundai and Genesis offering similar levels of performance and practicality.
Song confirmed, though, that the three brands will differentiate themselves via radically different designs.
“Hyundai and Genesis are launching their own vehicles based on the same platform, but the E-GMP enabled the creation of highly differentiated product that fulfills the identity for each brand.
"We can make the differentiation through the design,” he explained
Kia Design Centre head Karim Habib elaborated on the different styling directions, explaining that Kia’s relatively small size compared with Hyundai offered his team more flexibility when it comes to fashioning a look for the EV range.
“The technology that we’ve developed for the group allows us that flexibility," he said. "Of course for Kia what is important is original, inventive, exciting product.
"Kia has a privileged position within the group as we are smaller than Hyundai, so we are maybe able to create a few things were we can test certain things, pioneer certain ideas and that allows us to be as innovative and forward-thinking as possible.”
According to the company, the design of the imminent EV is like nothing it has ever created before.
With a growing line-up of pure electric vehicles, Kia appears to be making a concerted effort to enter the EV era, but it insists it won’t use the foray into new territory as an attempt to become more premium - although a large part of the company Plan S strategy is to become more “valuable”.
“Affordability regardless of the brand is still something that will keep being important and, mainly, we don’t want to be a premium brand," explained Martins, "so we are a mainstream manufacturer and we want our products to be valuable to the biggest numbers of customers possible.
“In saying that, we really aim to move even further away from being a transactional brand to become a more emotional brand in our relationship with consumers.
"A lot of people buy us because we are good value for money, but we want to become a valuable brand.”
That said, it is widely acknowledged that electric vehicles are still more expensive compared with equivalent combustion-powered models, and Kia’s line up will inherently become a little more pricey, but Martins is confident its customer base will understand the increased value proposition.
“It’s not about being more expensive," he argued. "But when you create an emotional relationship with your customers, automatically, people are willing to pay more”.
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