First up comes the all new for 2023 compact Kia Niro. The Niro is something of a ‘tweaner’ vehicle, bridging the gap between a crossover and small compact hatchback, but it also bridges the gap, if you will, between Kia’s internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles and its full electric line, such as the EV6 and EV7.
“The Niro is the trifecta of electrification, there’s three distinct powertrains,” Steve Center, Kia America’s CEO, told Yahoo Finance. “The first car is a hybrid. The second one is a plug-in hybrid, which has about 30 miles of full electric range. And then you have the full electric Niro, which is 250-miles pure electric car.”
The Niro has been a top seller for Kia, with sales more than doubling in Q1 of this year compared to last year. And Center believes a lot of that success is due to the product range’s flexibility.
“It’s actually the gateway to electrified products, and depending on someone’s life stage or living circumstances, you can have a hybrid, which doesn’t require any extra special treatment or charging at all; you have the plug-in, which requires some charging, gives you enough range to get by; and the electric vehicle, which is full electric, which requires more planning and having a place to charge at home, perhaps, and at work,” Center says.
Kia’s all-electric offerings, the EV6 compact SUV and the full-size EV9 production compact, were both on display in New York as well. The EV line at Kia will all be built using a dedicated EV platform shared with sister brand Hyundai (005380.KS), dubbed the E-GMP. The Niro does not use this EV platform since it uses hybrid engines.
ICE and hybrid engines are still very popular in America, especially those paired to mid- and full-size SUVs. And one of Kia’s sales stars, the Telluride SUV, also received some important updates ahead of its global debut in New York.
Since its introduction three years ago, Kia has sold over 200,000 Telluride SUVs in the United States, with 75% of those buyers new to the Kia brand. And according to Kiathose buyers also are the most loyal in the midsize SUV segment when returning to the market to buy another midsize SUV.
“What we’re 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 instrumentation to the full-curved display. We included connectivity, which the current car doesn’t have. We made some styling cue upgrades. We also have two additional models, the X-Line and the X-Pro, and the X-Pro being more off road in focus and capability.”
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 the customers are focused on Kia’s SUVs and crossovers, Center knows down the line, 5 to 7 years from now, the brand will have to go where it believes those customers will be, and he’s pretty blunt about what that future will look like.
“More electric cars. We want to be the number one electrified vehicle company in the world,” Center says. “Right now, we’re number two in the US, and the cars are all sold out.”