Korean EVs Start to Arrive



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Sunday February 17, 2019 Korean EVs Start to Arrive There are three new electric vehicles that are coming to the US this year, the Hyundai Kona EV, the Kia Niro EV, and an updated Kia Soul EV which will sport a much larger battery pack than the older version.  These three EVs have sparked a lot of excitement in the media, and Dave Vanderwerp writing in Car and Driver even headlined his article with "The 2019 Kia Niro EV Is What Tesla Model 3 Shoppers Should Be Buying".


I haven't had a chance to test drive any of these three models but I have driven the first generation Kia Soul EV and the Kia Niro PHEV which is already on sale here in the US.  They are both capable vehicles and fun to drive and I expect the new offerings to be just as good.  I seriously doubt they will come close to pulling any serious number of people away from Tesla though.  I still don't understand why such journalists continue to knock Tesla, a company born in the USA and building cars right here. 


That being said, the three cars above do have some pretty good stats behind them.


The first Hyundai Kona EV was delivered to Donald Small, Director of Pediatric Oncology at The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, last week.  I took a look around the Hyundai dealerships in the area and only 2 had the Kona EV listed in their new car inventory for a total of 17 cars on the ground.  None had pictures yet so they must really just have arrived.  Prices ranged from around $38,000 to $48,000.  For that price you get a compact crossover with an EP estimated range of 258 miles; the longest range of any EV that is not a Tesla. 


The Kia Niro EV is basically the same car as the Kona EV but the EPA range estimates is only 239 miles.  The Kia Niro is set to go on sale soon but so far I haven't been able to find a date.  I expect that it will be the same as we saw for the Kona EV where the first indication will be a press release that the first delivery has occured.


The upgraded Kia Soul EV was also supposed to be on sale this quarter and Kia has already released an official EPA range estimate of 243 miles on a charge.  This is another surprise as the Soul EV uses the same 64 KWH pack as the Kona EV and Niro EV but is smaller and lighter so I would have expected to see longer range from this car, although the range is a lot better than the 222 mile range that they hinted at during the LA Auto Show.


Now let's get a little dose of reality before everyone starts selling their Tesla shares.  These cars, while being very good in terms of range and are the type of car the is currently in vogue at the moment, are still only compliance cars.  All three cars are only going to go on sale in ZEV states and while technically they can be special ordered at any dealership, it has been reported that people who have tried to order one have been turned away with comments like "we do not sell plug-in cars".


So far Kia has said it will put these cars on sale in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.  Since Colorado has recently adopted California's ZEV rules it is quite likely that it will also appear on this list in the not too distant future.  If history serves it is unlikely that we will see these in dealers outside the ZEV state.


I expect sales of these vehicles to be relatively light.  We will probably see a pattern of sales of 300+ units which new cars arrive.  This amount will drop in months where no cars have arrived and dealer inventory becomes low.  I would like to see Kia really get behind these three cars and get them into dealerships but I expect they will prioritize Korea and Europe over the US and Canada and if sales do well in those two markets the US will be left behind.  If Hyundai/Kia manages to keep a reasonable inventory on dealer lots it is far more likely that Chevy Bolt sales will suffer than that Tesla sales will suffer.


The big question is can Hyundai/Kia get a big enough market share not to be hammered when Tesla releases the Model Y.  They still have several years to accomplish this but I remain skeptical that they will truly embrace the US market for plug-in cars and instead will continue to focus on Fuel Cell vehicles..


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