Kia sets out ambitious green targets for 2020
26 July 2016
Author: Debbie Wood
Although Kia was a little late to the hybrid party, with the firm's first car - the Niro - being launched next month, the carmaker has big plans to accelerate green technologies over the next four years.
One of the main targets is to chart a 25% improvement in fuel economy by 2020 compared with 2014, and the new Niro and Optima plug-in hybrid, both of which will be on sale by September, will be key to achieving this.
By 2020, Kia will also expand its current green car line-up to 11 models, including a fuel-cell vehicle and a plug-in version of the Niro, which will come to the UK in the middle of 2017.
Hybrid sales have more than doubled in Europe over the past five years, and are forecasted to account for around 700,000 sales by 2020. According to the Korean carmaker, sales for alternatively fuelled vehicles are predicted to exceed two million in Europe by 2023, and hybrids will be a particularly important area of growth.
"The Niro will allow Kia to meet this growing demand for alternatively fuelled vehicles, and help us meet our 2020 global target to improve average fleet fuel efficiency by 25%," said Michael Cole, Kia's COO of Europe.
Kia achieved 385,000 sales in Europe in 2015, representing an 8.8% growth year on year, and in 2016 the firm is expecting to reach 420,000 sales, a growth of 9%.
The Niro, the firm's first hybrid, combines two growing segments here in the UK, hybrid and the compact crossover, something which Cole believes is an ideal combination.
"We think we've hit a real winning combination with the Niro and believe this is how to make hybrid successful," he told BusinessCar. "Because there are so many other strong messages, like practicality and design, the hybrid technology almost becomes secondary. We didn't feel like we needed to put a petrol or diesel engine under the bonnet of the Niro - there are other cars in our line-up that offer good engines if that's what people want."
The Niro is among the first of Kia's new models to be designed, engineered and produced as part of the firm's green agenda, and a hybrid-only line-up is what, according to Simon Hetherington, commercial director of Kia UK, will set the Niro apart from its rivals.
"This car showcases our alternative technology. It feels right for the market for now," said Hetherington. "Sometimes when too may powertrain options are offered in the same car, it can cause hybrid technology to fade out, the benefits become blurred and awareness of the technology gets lost. Having it as the sole power, at least until the plug-in arrives, will enable the Niro to stand out," he added.
Kia is expecting to sell 3000-5000 Niro's in 2017, 60% of which is forecasted to be in fleet.
"We're constantly enhancing our proposition in the company car sector, the Niro has to be seen as a strong fleet proposition and will particularly appeal to user choosers," he added.
As well as investment in alternative fuel technologies, by 2020 Kia will also replace seven out of its 10 current engine ranges with next-generation petrol and diesel units. Higher-efficiency, multi-speed transmissions are also planned, while Kia engineers are targeting a 5% reduction in the average weight of new car bodies through the use of the latest ultra-strength steel.