EV Sales At Tipping Point In Europe, Says Kia

European consumers are starting to gain confidence with EV ownership according to Kia which even claims to be seeing real enthusiasm for the powertrain.

That’s the opinion of Kia Motor Europe managing director Paul Philpott who TU-Automotive caught up with at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show. Philpott said that consumer enthusiasm even extends to consumers being happy to join a lengthy waiting list to get their hands on new Kia EV models.

He said: “I can only give you the experience we’ve seen in the last month where at the end of January 2019 we announced pricing for e-Nero which is only on sale in four markets across Europe early April. Since announcing the prices, we have taken about 1,000 sold customer orders, many of them to people new to Kia, and that compares to the previous Soul electric vehicle where we sold between 200 to 300 a year.

“On top of this, people are now prepared to wait for their cars. Because what has been ordered so far takes up what I would expect to get in terms of supply this year. We are now saying to customers ‘you may well now have to wait for your car until early 2020’ and yet they are still placing orders.”

Philpott said much of the change could be attributed to new models that appear more attractive to customers. “The enthusiasm, I think, is there because Nero is a well-accepted body style it’s right for the markets, we’ve seen the demand for the hybrid EV increase about 50% this year and this is owing to the electric powertrain that takes away much of the range anxiety of an electric vehicle. Based on this experience, I think there will be a good momentum for electric vehicles as we progressively add to our range.”

At the same time, Philpott thinks the auto industry as a whole has reached a point where the EV powertrain is now being seen as a mainstream technology rather than the niche offering it appeared to be a couple of years ago. He explained: “I talk about a tipping point in vehicle sales and I believe we are at that tipping point with electric vehicles. We are seeing used car values of all electric vehicles improving and that is a sign that people are growing in confidence about the longevity of the vehicles. The used car market is a great economic model – when supply exceeds demand, prices drop, when demand exceeds supply, prices go up. This makes it a great indicator to see month-in-month-out residual values of most electric vehicles are strengthening.

“I think we are at that point now, with a car that doesn’t give people the same anxiety about range because when you’ve driven 280 miles you need a break anyway. Yes, you still have to plan your journey in terms of where you will charge it but all the research we have done is that 90% of the time people charge at home before they leave for work or at work itself. They buy an EV because they have accessibility to a charging point. However, if you live on the 18th floor of a high-rise flat and you work at a place that has no charging points, you probably aren’t yet in a position to invest in an EV.”

Philpott said consumers cited environmental clean air concerns and the convenience of recharging at home or work without having to make regular trips to a service station as the main reasons they are now considering EV powertrains. He added: “Also one of the main the main reasons we are at a tipping point now is that there are plenty of manufacturers entering the EV market and there is a critical mass coming. When the range was only 120 miles, and it wasn’t a certain range at that, people were quite worried but now you have a range that is almost equivalent of a petrol or diesel I think a lot of that concern has gone.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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