A Kia electric pickup has already been confirmed as a global model. But it would need to be an upscale model—not focused entirely around value and affordability—to make sense in America, a US Kia executive suggested to Green Car Reports at the New York auto show last week.
Kia promised the EV9 SUV for the U.S. market starting in the second half of 2023—with exact timing yet to be confirmed. Kia also hasn’t yet made any confirmation of plans to assemble the EV9 or any other electric vehicle in the U.S., but Kia America marketing VP Russell Wager said the company is “definitely investigating” that.
Kia suggested the pickup will ride on the same E-GMP platform that’s the basis for the EV9, Kia EV6, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Genesis GV60, and various other dedicated electric vehicles from these brands, which share some development resources. Kia has also confirmed that the production EV9 will offer three rows of seating and a range of up to 300 miles.
Kia Concept EV9
Under Kia’s Plan S, it intends (globally) to sell 500,000 EVs annually by 2025 and four million EVs annually by the end of the decade. That includes the introduction of 11 EVs by 2026, plus an ambitious sustainability roadmap.
The company hasn’t yet broken down what exactly Plan S means for the U.S., in numbers. But as Wager pointed out, Kia is now the number-two EV seller in the U.S. (after only Tesla), even though the EV6 just hit the market February 1. It was no fluke, he argued. Unlike Hyundai, Kia has the U.S. allocation of that model to keep up the pace and it has the support of its dealers to sell EVs at the vast majority of its stores in 50 states.
Kia's three separate EV models, including the EV9, EV6 and Niro EV, represent a larger EV commitment than most other full-line brands.
“We are evaluating where and what may come here,” Wager explained when pressed further about the Kia electric truck, stopping short of confirming it for the U.S.
Kia EV teaser
“We would love that; our dealership body would love that,” he added. “But at the same time we want to make sure it’s right.”
What would “right” be for a U.S.-bound Kia electric truck? Wager confirmed that it won’t be in a high-value, low-price segment like Ford’s Maverick Hybrid pickup.
“Kia is no longer "America's Best Value,"" Wager said, referring to the actual tagline Kia used in the U.S. for years.
“That's not what the brand is about anymore,” he explained. “So if we're going to bring any sort of truck into the lineup, it needs to fit within what we're doing now, of moving a little bit more premium in the designs, in the interiors and the technologies, the offerings. It is not going to be—part of our portfolio—an entry level vehicle into the brand.”
That doesn’t bode well for the entry-level EV Kia is developing globally.
Kia EV teaser
Wager added that with the electric truck, Kia is closely watching what the competition is doing, and suggested there’s a little bit of wait-and-see.
“Everyone says the demand is there; we're gonna see what the sales look like,” he said.
Does that apply to traditional-looking models like the F-150 Lightning or Chevy Silverado EV, completely new propositions like the Rivian R1T, or the radically different Tesla Cybertruck? We’d venture it’s all of the above.