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Kia Plays Long Game To Win Over Electric Vehicle Buyers – Ward's Auto

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| Apr 27, 2022
NEW YORK – Kia’s investments in electrification are about long-term customer satisfaction, not about playing short-term tag with Tesla and other EV competitors, the company’s marketing vice president says.
“Everyone always talks about Tesla. They have their loyalty. Let them have that,” Russell Wager (pictured, below left), Kia’s vice president of marketing, tells Wards. “It’s all about the other first-time buyers.”
That’s a smart move, industry watchers say. First, EV sales numbers change as new models are previewed and as those new models actually roll out. Plus, data indicates first-time buyers of EVs remain loyal to that brand, even when they experience hiccups with various components.Russell Wager
“Dealers are worried they will lose business with EVs. I tell them, these customers are more loyal than customers of every vehicle you’ve ever sold,” Jon Sederstrom, managing director of global automotive strategic initiatives at J.D. Power, tells Wards. “Bolt buyers are more loyal than Silverado drivers.”
Consider that, despite General Motors late last year recalling every Chevrolet Bolt EV for potential battery fire risk, those buyers are more loyal to the brand than the owners of the automaker’s flagship internal-combustion-engine pickup.
Ho Sung Song, president and CEO of Kia, has publicly spoken about the automaker’s “full-scale transformation,” including changes in corporate vision, logo, product and design, and strategy.
That “Plan S” strategy includes two BEV launches per year beginning in 2023, with a goal to market 14 BEVs by 2027. Included in Kia’s electric roster is the EV9, a full-size BEV CUV that debuted at the recent New York auto show and is on track for release in 2024. Rumors swirl about plans for an electric pickup based on the EV9, but Kia insiders are mum on the topic.
Despite all the attention to electrics, Kia’s game plan calls for allowing customers to ease into EVs. One example is the 2023 Kia Niro that debuts in hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric versions. Kia expects all three models to be available in late 2022.
Wager notes the incredible fuel efficiency of the hybrids – 600 miles (966 km) on a tank of gas – and little-known features, including the onboard power generator that can allow owners to tap into their EV’s power to run their refrigerators or other electric necessities during a power failure.
“That’s not why someone is going to buy a car, but it’s another amazing benefit,” Wager says. “When we first started talking to our car dealers last year, we told them we expected more than 70% of EV buyers to be first-time [EV] buyers. They want to get into an EV, but they’re not loyal to anyone yet. It’s open season.”
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