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.
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.
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!