Kia plans to roll out seven all-new battery-electric vehicles by 2027, along with four other plug-based models, the Korean carmaker’s CEO announced Friday morning from the company’s headquarters in Seoul, while also launching a new line of products dubbed Purpose-Built Vehicles, or PBVs.
They’re all part of a broader brand transformation Chief Executive Ho-Sung Song and other senior executives detailed during an online webinar and subsequent media roundtable. The company – which has dropped the word, “Motors” from its name, first teased its plans for a new direction when, last week, it revealed a new version of the Kia logo.
“Our great transformation begins right now, today,” proclaimed Song, emphasizing that Kia wants to be seen as a “mobility company,” not just an automotive manufacturer, going forward.
That’s a theme that a number of other automakers, including Ford, Volkswagen and even Kia’s bigger sibling, Hyundai, have played during the last several years. Hyundai, for its part, has backed that by announcing plans to enter a variety of new fields, including flying taxis and “ultimate mobility vehicles” capability of doing things like striding across boulder-strewn fields.
For the moment, at least, Kia is sticking with automobiles, but it does plan to change the way many of its products look, are powered and are sold and serviced, Song and other officials stressed during the more than hourlong presentation and media event that followed.
This wasn’t the first time that Kia revealed plans to bring an assortment of EVs to market – but the company offered more details than ever before, starting with an investment target of US$25 billion by 2025. Though there will be seven all-electric products, they will be dubbed EV1 through EV9 – which would suggest Kia might see fit to later fill the gaps.
A number of the models were seen on stage, albeit deeply within shadow. But it was clear that the majority of them will adopt crossover-style forms with Kia confirming they will share a skateboard-like platform, like most of the new EVs other manufacturers are bringing to market. Kia previously announced the architecture will be known as the E-GMP and will have the ability to use either a single motor on the rear axle or twin motors, one on each axle.
In a quick rundown, Kia’s global design chief Karim Habib described several of the upcoming models as “a fun and practical commuter” car, “a powerful and dynamic crossover,” “a strong and bold SUV,” an “agile and dynamic machine,” and a long and elegant sedan.”
The very first of the all-electric models will be revealed this spring, for launch in 2022. He stressed that it will take advantage of the fact that its motors and batteries will be under the load floor to have a unique exterior and interior layout. And Habib added that it will adopt “a typology (or design form) that will be quite unique and which you haven’t seen before.”
Expect to see Kia introduce a new, more “expressive” and “emotional” design language moving forward, Habib suggested. It won’t start over from square one, however. The brand’s familiar “tiger nose” grille will remain part of the new vocabulary, he said, “It is part of the heritage we are proud of (but) it allows for a lot of flexibility. It is important for each product to get its owner character,” said Habib, adding, “You will see it (the grille) in different shapes and forms.”
In line with Kia’s desire to be more than just a conventional automotive manufacturer, the automaker said it will start producing PBVs that appear to be dedicated for use in commercial operations, such as ride-sharing — including those operating autonomously. It described the initial models as a “micro-autonomous pod,” a “small individual urban transporter, “a “midsize commuter, “ and a large logistic companion.”
The first of those could be ready within a year using an existing Kia platform and a conventional internal combustion engine. Further out, the PBVs appear likely to be based on the Kia EV technology now under development.
The use of names like EV1 through EV9 fit in with the broader shift to an alphanumeric nomenclature for most future Kia products, such as the K5 sedan that recently replaced the old Optima model, said marketing chief Artur Martins.
But some light truck products will retain familiar names, such as the familiar Kia Sportage. Even so, the shift will be to using global badges, the outgoing Sedona minivan being replaced by the Carnival model later this year.
Once known for what were euphemistically referred to as “cheap and cheerful products,” Kia has moved upmarket in recent years with offerings such as the big Telluride SUV and K9 sedan. While Martins said the corporate aspiration is to get buyers to opt for more lavishly equipped models, he stressed that, “We do not intend to be a premium brand,” adding that, “Affordability will still be important” to Kia.