Kia is holding back on building a case for hybrid and electric vehicles in Australia until government gets on board, the brand's local product boss Jeff Shafer told TMR this week.
With the exception of the now-defunct Green Car Innovation Fund, state and federal governments have been slow to follow other regions into introducing policies that encourage the introduction and purchase of electric vehicles.
There are currently no significant financial incentives for buyers to purchase a hybrid or all-electric vehicle, and there are no known plans for policies that would encourage the development of any meaningful charging infrastructure.
Kia Australia’s Senior Product Manager, Jeff Shafer, said a lack of government direction was making it hard to justify electric models for the brand's local range.
“For better or worse, Australia doesn’t have a strong government position on alternative-fuel vehicles,” Mr Shafer said.
“There’s no picking and choosing by governments to say ‘we're going to support hybrid’ or 'we're going to support any one particular technology', so I guess that makes the job we’ve got as planners a little more difficult.”
Mr Shafer said a shift to electric-assisted or all-electric vehicles would likely be gradual, and that the war on world oil prices would be slowing the adoption of new 'green' technologies.
However, a sudden rise in fuel prices could kick-start buyer interest in EVs and hybrids and while Kia isn’t currently focussed on such models, the carmaker is ready to move quickly if necessary.
Mr Shafer said that while a number of brands are now offering hybrids and EVs in Australia, "I haven't seen a strong demand just yet."
"That’s going to change I think over time, and we want to be ready when it does. But I’m not sure that we want to put a vehicle to market that ends up being a marketing exercise and not a real sales opportunity, so we’ll keep looking at how the market develops.”
The key for Kia in introducing hybrids and EVs in Australia, Shafer said, will be "to do it in a way that the customer sees the clear benefit for the premium that they might be asked to pay for a battery-powered vehicle.”
Kia recently teased a new concept based on the Soul EV for the Chicago Auto Show called the Trail’ster, which features all-wheel-drive and may point to a future direction for Kia’s EV offerings; or a new model.
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