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South Korean auto maker Kia plans to roll out electric and hybrid vehicles from its upcoming plant at Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh and is targeting to launch an electric vehicle in India by 2021, said a top company official.
Kia Motors India, the wholly-owned arm of Kia Motors Corporation, has lined also up three models to be launched here in the next three years as part of its plans to enter the market. It will start with SUV, SP Concept that was showcased at the Auto Expo this year.
"At the moment we are considering to produce electric vehicles and hybrids at our facility (at Anantpur)," Kia Motors India CEO and Managing Director Kook Hyun Shim told PTI in an interview here. The company is investing USD 1.1 billion at the plant spread over 23 million square feet. It will have a capacity to produce 3 lakh car annually and employ around 3,000 when fully operational.
When asked about the company's plans for electric vehicles (EVs) for India in the backdrop of the government taking a technology agnostic approach and avoiding framing an EV policy, he said the company's approach is "very flexible".
"At the same time, we are also thinking of doing a pioneering effort, to position our brand as an eco-friendly car maker. We want to be the pioneers in this market. So, by 2021 we could take the initiative to launch a fully electric vehicle," Shim added.
At the Auto Expo earlier this year, Kia Motors Corporation President and CEO Han-Koo Park had said that the company will introduce an India-exclusive compact electric vehicle between 2019 and 2021. He, however, had not shared details of where the proposed EV would be manufactured.
Globally, the company has announced that it planned to have 16 electrified vehicles in its line up by 2025, including plug in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles (FCV). "We already sell electrified cars in Europe and US market...We have all the technologies ready. We are very flexible at the moment (as far as India is concerned)," he added.
The current issues facing EVs, such as charging infrastructure and battery life-cycle management, would have been addressed to an extent by 2021, Shim said. When asked about the company's overall product line-up for India, where it is a late entrant, Shim said, "Our plan is to launch three models in three years."
He said the company is also conducting market study in India to find which model out of its global portfolio of 16 brands could be launched here after localisation.
In terms of segment, Shim said, "Kia is globally strong in recreational vehicles such as SUVs and MPVs. In India also, we see a lot of demand for these type of vehicles and our priority will be in that segment, although we also have hatchbacks and compact cars in our portfolio."
Commenting on sales and service network development, he said Kia will try to have its reach across India and is currently in the process of selecting the 'right dealer partners'.
On drawing synergies with group firm Hyundai India, Shim said Kia will be totally independent in terms of sales and service network and even local suppliers will be different, although there could be some common South Korean suppliers. Kia India has already started contacting 120 suppliers, he added.
Ruling out possibilities of sharing its production plant with Hyundai, Shim said, "We see a lot of demand for our Kia vehicle in India. Also, we plan to do assembly of completely knocked down (CKS) units. So we don't see the possibility of sharing our plant with Hyundai."
On the recruitment of people for its manufacturing operations, Shim said Kia will start its planned hiring of 3,000 people from October this year and will complete the process by end of 2020 by when it expects to have three shifts of operation at the plant.
Updating on the progress of construction of the facility, he said, "We have completed about 65 per cent, which is around 10 per cent ahead of our original schedule." The extra time that the company gets will be utilised for longer pilot production of the compact SUV so that Kia could deliver a "top quality product" in India, Shim added.
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