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If you’re holding your breath for the newest version of the Kia Telluride – the one that was facelifted at the New York Auto Show in April – then maybe it’s time to exhale in disappointment.
It isn’t coming to Australia.
But that’s only half the story, because in its place is big brother to the wildly successful EV6, the EV9 – a full battery electric vehicle with just as much presence, comparable space and three rows of seating – and all from under $100,000.
Much has been written about the EV9 since its debut as a concept vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November last year, but this is the clearest confirmation yet that the big electric SUV is in with a huge chance in Australia.
Not yet revealed, the final production version is set to surface any time between this November’s LA show and the 2023 New York Auto Show due for April next year.
According to Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) general manager for product planning, Roland Rivero, while the facelifted Telluride full-sized seven- and eight-seater big SUV rival to the Hyundai Palisade and Toyota Kluger is off the table for our market, the EV9 is something Australians should take to their hearts.
“Telluride will never be developed in right-hand drive in this point of time, so you can rule that out,” he told CarsGuide at a press event in Melbourne last week.
“(However) there is an opportunity for a vehicle of similar size, but all electric, to potentially make its way to Australia.
“We’ve put our hand up for it – the EV9, we’ve shown our interest for it, and headquarters are understanding of our desire. They know the existence of upper-large SUV buyers, and if you look at the average recommended retail price of vehicles in the upper-large segment, that’s about $96,000.
“From what we see, there is a desire from Australians for a big SUV that can tow and go off-road. If we can offer something along those lines but be all-electric, it’s actually an opportunity that hasn’t been tapped into.
“Judging from Palisade demand, LandCruiser demand, Patrol demand, there has to be demand for an EV of that nature. If we can get our hands on even one, we are confident it can sell.
“And as an entry point, we’re confident it can be a five-figure car. Potential global pricing indicates that we might be able to bring it in just below six figures.”
To be built on the Hyundai Group’s E-GMP all-electric and modular vehicle base – along with some 23 other models that include the aforementioned EV6, as well as the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Ioniq 6 and Genesis GV60 – the EV9 is also expected to feature that platform’s 800-volt architecture to aid fast charging and ease of operation, as well as rear-drive and twin-motor all-wheel drive configurations.
With the some-say-surprising sales success of the EV6 in an Australia where the previous federal government likened EVs to ‘ruining our weekends’, Mr Rivero is confident the EV9 has the right stuff to leave its mark in this market.
“I can’t speak on behalf of any other region or country, but Korea is very well aware that Australia has very strong interest for that car,” he said. “It’s Upper Large, it sits above the Sorento; it’s still different enough to the Carnival.”
In other words, it looks as forward to the future as the Telluride does to what’s come before.
What KMAu isn’t saying is how badly it would love to offer the five-metre long, two-metre wide and nearly 1.8m high Telluride in Australia anyway. What’s the hold-up? A colossal hit abroad since launching back in early 2019, it’s only built in left-hand drive, and mainly for North American consumers.
Meanwhile the closely-related Palisade is made in South Korea. Which is why Hyundai can import the latter to Australia and an outfoxed KMAu cannot.
“You’ve seen how Palisade is going,” Mr Rivero explained. “It’s going relatively well and so we think there’s opportunity we’re missing out on.
“If Telluride was developed in right-hand drive (RHD), we’d be there. But unfortunately for us, where Palisade comes out of Korea, a Telluride only comes out of North America. And North America can basically reject adding another line for RHD. And props to Toyota for putting in a Kluger (which is also only sourced in the USA) in RHD. That would not have been an easy battle to win.”
Other stumbling blocks to the Telluride’s future in Australia include no diesel option – though a powerful 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine, driving either the front or all four wheels via an eight-speed auto, would certainly find favour here – and the fact that Kia in America can’t built enough to meet demand, with nearly 100,000 sold in 2021.
“The Georgia (USA) factory is only coping with the demand coming from North America,” Mr Rivero added.
So, EV9 it is then. Maybe as soon as next year. Bold design, big cabin, seats for seven or even eight occupants. All electric. And all for under $100K.
Has Kia made the right decision backing the EV9 for Australia? Let us know in the comments below.