Kia: Chinese sourcing a benefit to customers

Kia Australia says there have been multiple benefits in sourcing the electric EV5 crossover from China.

In addition to strong supply, the company says it’s been able to work closely with the company’s Chinese team to ensure the vehicle is suitable for our market and get it to market promptly.

“I don’t think it’s an issue. In actual fact I think it’s a benefit,” Kia Australia ride and handling engineer Graeme Gambold told CarExpert.

“On EV5, our experience is [there’s a] new R&D centre in Yantai in China, close to Seoul, so very good liaison and information sharing… The guys there really know their stuff, as well as the Namyang [Kia’s Korean R&D HQ] guys do.

“Because we’re one of their big customers as opposed to a program in Namyang where we’re one in 30 global programs going through the system at any one time, in Yantai we were the only one.

“We got all their attention from their senior management… I think that reflects in the achievement that we’ve made in the vehicle, not just in ride and handling but a more thorough R&D program on that side of the car than we perhaps normally would on other vehicles.”

Kia has been testing the EV5 in Australia, with engineers developing a suspension tune for our market.

They’ve also been calibrating the electric SUV’s active safety and driver assist technology to cope with local traffic conditions, lane markings and speed signs.

“We’ve also had this massive focus on ADAS team, charging infrastructure team, Kia Connect team, they’ve all been here, multiple engineers over multiple months coming down making sure this vehicle is tuned suitably for the Australian unique conditions… more so than other products that we’ve probably seen, I’d say,” said Mr Gambold.

“So it’s actually probably a positive coming out of China, a real focussed product. It’s not just we’re taking some surplus supply out of China.”

When asked how a Chinese-built model will be perceived by Australian consumers, Kia Australia CEO Damien Meredith said it doesn’t expect any issues.

“It’s Kia-built, it’s built by Kia, so country of origin I don’t think plays an important role these days,” said Mr Meredith.

Last year, China overtook Korea to become the third largest production source for cars sold in Australia. A total of 193,433 Chinese-built cars were sold here, against 161,614 Korean-built cars.

Chinese sourcing means we’ll also get the EV5 in Australia before markets like Europe and the UK.

The EV5 isn’t due to launch in the UK, for example, until 2025 while it’ll arrive here in June 2024, with a flagship GT-Line following in the fourth quarter of this year.

Kia also expects to be able to bring in up to 850 EV5s monthly, which could see it sell 10,200 EV5s annually. For context, it sold just 1000 Korean-built electric Niros in 2023.

This could also see the EV5 challenge the hot-selling BYD Atto 3, also built in China, which last year averaged 920 sales per month.

The Niro’s Korean factory needs to supply all global markets that offer that vehicle, with Europe requiring the lion’s share, affecting how many examples Kia Australia can import.

The Yantai factory in China, in contrast, will build EV5s for only a handful of markets such as China, Australia and Thailand. Other markets will source the EV5 from Korea.

Unlike the larger, E-GMP-based EV6 and EV9, the EV5 is underpinned by a separate dedicated EV platform called N3 eK.

Though it hasn’t confirmed specifications for the local range, Kia Australia says both standard and long-range batteries will be offered, as well as single-motor front-wheel drive and dual-motor all-wheel drive layouts.

In China, the single-motor variant produces 160kW and is paired with a choice of 64kWh or 88kWh lithium iron phosphate battery packs, offering 530km to 720km of driving range in lenient CLTC lab testing, respectively.

The all-wheel drive EV5 gains a 70kW electric motor on the rear axle, increasing its combined outputs to 230kW. This drivetrain is powered by a 70kWh battery, enabling up to 650km of driving range in the same CLTC tests.

Kia Australia has yet to announce pricing and final specifications for the EV5, though it’s understood to be closely priced with the smaller Niro EV, which is priced from $66,590 before on-road costs.

MORE: Everything Kia EV5

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