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At the launch of its first flagship plug-in hybrid Sorento seven-seat SUV, Kia Australia explained why it isn’t concerned about the seemingly limited demand for PHEVs in Australia.
Wearing a tall MSRP of $79,330 or a driveaway cost of $81,990, the Sorento PHEV GT-Line is by no means an affordable offering, but the brand says demand is still expected to match supply .
Explaining this, Kia Australia's chief product planner, Roland Rivero, said the hybrid sales mix “will be governed by supply – the PHEV will have a high demand in Europe, and our production line is shared with those vehicles, so they will get the lion’s share of supply. We expect 20 or so a month for Australia”.
With limited supply of vehicles across all brands and particularly for Kia’s newer products, Mr Rivero said the brand’s Australian arm would have no trouble moving any Sorento it could get.
“Whether we get five PHEVs and 20 HEVs, they will all move quickly, demand is incredibly high,” he said.
On the topic of the ‘self-charging’-style HEV variant which will become available in early 2022, it is expected to be much more popular than its PHEV counterpart.
“We’re negotiating more volume for HEV compared to the PHEV. It’s been proven by the Toyota range, and will be an important part of the Sorento mix. Hybrid models will give Sorento buyers a petrol all-wheel drive, which is something we couldn’t get before with the V6 because of the configuration in right-hand drive,” Mr Rivero said.
“The Sorento will be the only range in Australia to offer petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid.”
Elaborating on this point and the difficulty of customers understanding PHEVs, the brand’s local managing director, Damien Meredith, explained that the PHEVs would find the consumers who understood them, but in the longer term, this would be more of an issue.
“The people that do understand PHEV buy the car – maybe only four per cent understand, but they understand the benefits well – it’s a difficult thing to broad-brush in terms of people understanding it. It’s difficult for any brand to spend marketing dollars on such a niche product,” he said.
“Our dealers have a bit of a role to play in that, our digital executions will try to convey that. It might not suit all buyers to have a pure EV.”
Both the PHEV and the incoming regular hybrid Sorento will initially only be available as top-of-the-range GT-Lines as the brand faces supply issues for the seven-seat range.
“We’re having a few issues with the semiconductor shortage” Mr Rivero explained. “We would have investigated a full range of hybrids – given we have severe shortages, we didn’t want a greater amount of complexity in the Sorento range.”
“The top of the range GT-Line diesel has a six-plus month wait, but it varies for other variants.”
The Sorento range has been updated to carry the brand's new logo, and the PHEV and HEV versions will be the first in a slew of hybrid variants to arrive in other mainstream offerings from the brand, particularly the incoming new-generation Sportage.