Korean automaker Kia (000270.KS) opened this year’s New York Auto Show with the world premiere of two of its best-selling models.
First comes the all-new Kia Niro compact for 2023. The Niro is a ‘tweaner’ that bridges the gap between a compact crossover and a compact hatchback, but also bridges the gap, if you will, between internal combustion engine (ICE) cars in the Kia and its full electric line, like the EV6 and EV7.
“The Niro is tri-electrified, and there are three distinct engines,” Steve Center, CEO of Kia America, told Yahoo Finance. “The first is a hybrid. The second is a plug-in hybrid, and it has a full electric range of about 30 miles. And then you have the all-electric Niro, which is a 250-mile pure electric car.”
The Niro was Kia’s best-selling vehicle, with sales doubling in the first quarter of this year compared to last year. Center believes that much of this success is due to the flexibility of the product range.
“It’s actually the gateway to electrified products, and depending on a person’s life stage or living conditions, you can have a hybrid, which requires absolutely no extra special handling or charging; you have the plug-in, which requires some charging, and gives you enough scope to get it; and an electric vehicle, which is fully electric, which requires more planning and a place to charge it at home, and possibly at work,” says the center.
Kia’s all-electric offerings, the EV6 compact SUV and the full-size EV9 compact SUV, were also shown in New York as well. Kia’s EV line will be built using a custom EV platform shared with sister brand Hyundai (005380.KS), dubbed E-GMP. Nero does not use this EV platform because it uses hybrid engines.
ICEs and hybrids are still very popular in America, especially those paired with mid- and full-size SUVs. One of Kia’s sales superstars, the Telluride SUV, also received some major updates ahead of its world debut in New York.
Since its introduction three years ago, Kia has sold more than 200,000 Telluride SUVs in the United States, 75% of those buyers are new to the Kia brand. According to Kia, these buyers are also the most loyal in the midsize SUV segment when they return to the market for another midsize SUV.
“What we are doing is adding some improvements to allow it to keep pace with the rest of the Kia line early in its life cycle,” Center said. “We changed the hardware to a fully curved screen. We included connectivity, which the current car doesn’t have. We did some styling cue upgrades. We also have two additional models, the X-Line and X-Pro, and the more focused and off-road X-Pro” .
Center says customers have been telling Kia they want the flexibility to take the Telluride off the beaten path, especially younger buyers who tend to be “adventurous,” Center said.
While customers focus on Kia’s SUVs and crossovers, Center constantly knows, 5-7 years from now, the brand will have to go where it thinks those customers will be, and it’s very vocal about what that future will look like.
“More electric cars. We want to be the number one electric car company in the world,” the center says. “Currently, we are number two in the United States, and all the cars have been sold.”
Bras Subramanian is the Senior Automotive Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. you can follow it Twitter and on Instagram.
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