Kia Australia is planning to skip importing existing hybrid models altogether as it seeks to bring at least two pure-electric vehicles to market by 2021.
Speaking to CarAdvice in Brisbane this week, Kia Australia's chief operating officer, Damien Meredith, said that the decision to skip hybrid vehicles in its entirety makes sense for the brand, as there is currently no demand for either type of alternative fuel vehicles, so it may as well start with the better option.
“The complexity of it doesn’t add up for how we want to do business,” Meredith said in regards to having both hybrid and pure EVs," he said.
“The way I explain it, it’s sort of like a VHS and Betamax argument, … we should just go to Beta and hope it’s more successful.”
What will be required from now until 2021 when the first of Kia’s electric models arrive is a lot of training for the dealer network and collaboration with Hyundai. But even when the first two models (expected to be a small passenger car and a small SUV) do come, they will unlikely be volume sellers.
“It’s still a long way to go with all these things, no manufacturer is going to be selling tens of thousands of electric cars in 2021-22 but we got to start and the group is pretty advanced in EVs and so we may as well take advantage of it," Meredith said.
“[But] I got to be honest, there is no demand for Kia EV vehicles, right now, … if you look at the hybrid situation not many get sold in this country ,so the reality is that we are jumping the others and going straight to EVs and that is our strategy and that’s what we want to stick with – what we’ve heard is that Hyundai Motor Group is very advanced in regards to what we can do and what models we've got, so as soon as they become available we will be taking them.”
As for hydrogen fuel-cells? That seems to no longer be on the cards in the short to medium term, despite Hyundai Australia pushing hard for its own set of hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles as part of the Hydrogen Council in conjunction with Toyota.
“They were, we were incredibly advanced in fuel-cell technology but there was a shift in Korea probably six to eight months ago where EVs tended to take over and we think in the medium term that’s the best way to go,” he added.
Electric vehicles currently make up around 0.1 per cent of new cars sold in Australia.