Kia Soul EV Demand "Stronger Than Expected"


100% Electric Vehicles

Published on February 15th, 2015 | by Zach

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Kia Soul EV Demand “Stronger Than Expected”

Kia’s approach to electric vehicles — and, in particular, its first one, the Kia Soul EV — is a bit odd to me. It emphasized before the Kia Soul EV’s arrival in the United States that the Soul EV was not a compliance car. Yet, it is only selling the vehicle at 17 dealerships in California… which certainly makes it seem like a compliance car! Furthermore, with only 110 sales in January, it’s not exactly a big player in the market. That’s two big indications the Soul EV is a compliance car.

Kia-Soul-EV

But here’s the curveball that strikes Kia out, imho: according to GAS2, “Kia has announced that demand for the Soul EV has been quite a bit stronger than the company ever expected.” It sold 110 Soul EVs in January in the US and is surprised at how much demand there is for the vehicle? This sounds like a joke. Of course, demand could be much greater than supply (that seems to be the point), but that still means that Kia decided to launch the Soul EV in the US with a target of just ~100 cars a month. Again, this sounds like a joke.

The good news is that Kia is now working to supply much more of the demand it is seeing in the States. Orth Hedrick, vice president of product planning at Kia Motors America, told Autoblog: “For the next stage, we were originally planning on hitting the east coast, but we are changing that around a little bit. You’ll see more availability.”

That great to hear. I know a large number of our readers have indicated interest in the vehicle, and I’ve seen that interest in comments and forums around the interwebs. I think if Kia really tries to sell this thing, it could break into the US top 5.

2015 Kia Soul EV Price


 

One very important thing for Kia, which we’ve seen when it comes to the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt, BMW i3, and Fiat 500e, is that the electric vehicle results in big conquest sales — that is, it pulls completely new buyers to Kia.

“We went back to the factory and told them it’s doing very well and it’s now expanded beyond an EV, it’s something bigger,” Hedrick said. “It’s helping us get a dialogue with completely new, different customers that we normally wouldn’t see in a Kia store. So we would like the opportunity to take it further.”

That’s the thing about a good electric car — or even just a decent one — it’s so much more attractive than any gasmobile out there, and there’s such a limited number of models on the market, that it can pull people to your company that have never considered buying from you before. This is big for car companies, but only a few of them seem to be figuring it out.

Coming back to the compliance car statement, as I noted before, Kia had stated the Soul EV definitely wasn’t just a compliance car… but it seems that it was little more than a compliance car. Here are some more words from Hedrick:

“When we looked at it originally, we were trying to go beyond the compliance part,” Hedrick said. “We understood, of course, that we had to do it, but we wanted to showcase something that was really strong for us, which is the Soul, and we thought it would help build out the Soul family and bring more people to see us and that’s exactly what’s happening. It was a little more than compliance but I think we were kind of shocked how well it was received. It’s been a huge hit.”

So, we get some truth after all.

With the story cleared up a bit, I wonder how many Soul EVs Kia could actually sell if the vehicle was available nationwide and there was a strong effort to be one of the country’s EV leaders. I’m sure a lot more than 110 a month!


 

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, SCTY, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB. After years of covering solar and EVs, he simply had a lot of faith in these companies and felt like they were good companies to invest in as a portion of his retirement strategy. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Chris_in_Raleigh

    My (uninformed) assumption has been that production of new EV models is sometimes limited so that any early problems are experienced by a small number of forgiving early adopters, thereby limiting potential damage to the brand.

    • Kyle Field

      I agree that there is a large learning curve with EVs. Light was shed on the issues the Golden Child of EVs (Tesla) has had in the recent forum posting…but that even with those issues, it was a fantastic car. Having said that, they moved forward to scaled production rather quickly.

  • TedKidd

    This car has missed its opportunity. The Bolt through their heart is that the Bolt is now right around the corner.

    By mid 2016 I suspect they’ll have to give away sub 100 mile cars, and even 150 mile cars will be viewed as deficient.

    Tesla’s crystal ball so long ago about this space is proving pretty dead on.

    • Przemysław Lib

      LOL

      Bolt is LATE 2016, production START.

      So there is more than 18 months till we see similarly small numbers sales from Bolt. Or more if they plan initial sales in thousands. Just because they need to make those cars first, and that mean big production capacity (of new parts, with workforce that is specifically retrained into new positions).

      • Right, but who will buy a 90-100 mile EV just a few months before a 200 mile EV comes out, for the same price?

        • Przemysław Lib

          That still leave 12 months of sales. Or more in markets where Bolts will come with bigger lag.

          Plenty of opportunity to steal some good sales 😉

          But Soul now is fighting Leaf & others.

          After 2y it will fight Bolt & others. (In USA, time will tell if Bolt production number will be enough to serve other markets)

      • TedKidd

        Bolt is a SOUL killer, not a Tesla killer. They delay Soul long enough, people will simply hold out a little longer to get double the range. 2nd gen Leaf will be along soon too. I don’t think introducing your first gen car just as others are into second gen is a winning strategy.

        I suppose Bolt could give the Model 3 a run, but only if they adopt the Tesla charging standard and partner on the Supercharger network.

        Anyone who thinks anything can compete with Tesla without access to the network doesn’t understand how critically important Supercharging is. It turns EV’s into vehicles with NO sacrifices or handicaps.

        • Przemysław Lib

          Kia Soul is on the market already.

          Though I agree that if they are late with roll out and there is like 6m difference in roll out IN GIVEN market, then Soul will have hard time.

          But only time will tell how fast Bolt will arrive outside of USA.

          • TedKidd

            Your definition of “on the market” and mine appear to be quite different.

            I live in a compliance state, and I can’t buy this car. Not sure how that qualifies the car as being “on the market.”

            Are you familiar with falacy of excluded middle?

    • RobMF

      The early leaders in the EV market will own the automobile market in 10-15 years….

    • Agreed. Tesla’s vision and timing was spot on.

      And let’s also remember that there would be no Bolt with Tesla. Tesla inspired the Volt, and the Volt inspired the Bolt.

  • Kyle Field

    Nobody is going to stand up and say “we’re just building this car because we have to” as that would turn away just about all prospective buyers. When I went in to my local Kia dealership and asked about The Soul EV 4 months ago after it was first announced, they knew nothing about it and said it was only being sold at 4 dealerships (not sure if this was only in CA or across the US but based on the statement in this article, it’s likely that it was only in CA). In addition to the facts in this article, this doesnt lend to me thinking they are making a real push on the Soul – either in CA or across the US/World.

    I hope they take this early demand as evidence for the direction the auto industry is heading and put more into EVs across their lineup.

    • Przemysław Lib

      That is certainly true.

      Though eve if they reused many parts/designs from other cars, Kia should NOT be able to mass produce it in tens of thousands per month initially.

      Small ramp up, should be expected.

      Now. They may had NO plan to scale up to such numbers before. (Will never know…)

      Also I think that Bolt, Tesla X, others will follow similar pattern. Small numbers in first few months sold in markets where there are most buyers.

      Maybe Tesla will be more evenly spread, as they have 20k of customers waiting right now 😀

    • Actually Fiat’s top brass said almost exactly as much. The publicly pushed people away from buying Fiat EVs.

      • Kyle Field

        Good point. I remember this and thought “man, they are going to look straight up foolish in 5 years…” but that’s just me, what do I know.

    • They could have pulled a Fiat, or they could have just said nothing, but they went out and emphasized this wasn’t a compliance car… and are now admitting it was barely more than a compliance car. 😛

  • Przemysław Lib

    So the summary is that EVs have possibility of shaking market shares just like transition from dumb-phones to smart-phones shook “mobile” companies?
    (Apple was not phone company at that time!)

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