Kia doesn’t see SUV sales or demand peaking any time soon, with the company still looking at developing new models and niche versions.
“There is much more freedom, you can make an SUV more sporty and not ultilitarian,” group chief creative officer Peter Schreyer told us in Korea last week. “I don’t know what comes after the SUV. I think it’s just what people worldwide want, to sit high and have an overview, to feel protected.”
The company says its decision to launch the small Niro hybrid as a crossover has already been justified by early sales success. Despite using the same mechanical package as the Hyundai Ioniq, the Niro has been given a far more aggressive look and chunkier proportions reminiscent of the Nissan Qashqai.
Thomas Oh, Kia’s chief operating officer, told us demand is already running ahead of expectations in Korea and he anticipates the car will be a major hit elsewhere, predicting 40,000 sales in the US next year and 20,000 in Europe once the car goes on sale over here.
“It does not look like a Prius because Prius customers are very loyal,” he said, “but many customers want small SUVs including those looking for eco-friendly cars.”
As with the Ioniq, we’re also told to expect an Niro EV to follow alongside the hybrid version. “This year globally eco-friendly cars are around 2 million vehicles, with electric vehicles just 100,000,” Oh explained, “by 2020 we expect eco-friendly to rise to around 600,000 with 42% hybrid, 32% plug-in hybrid and 27 percent electric… that is a significant increase and it makes sense to combine the technology with vehicle types that customers want to buy.”