‘Our strategy now is to premiumise the Seltos': Tae-Jin Park
Kia Motors India MD and CEO Tae-Jin Park speaks about how adapting to the changing market scenarios with befitting products has been a recipe for success for the brand.
It was with the Seltos SUV that Kia Motors entered India in 2019. Since then the journey of Kia India and the Seltos has been almost identical. It was a segment disruptor and a segment winner for the South Korean brand. As a result, the Seltos is an important model for Kia India and now it has been repackaged to lead the premium end of the market. Kia India MD and CEO Tae-Jin Park talks about how the changing market dynamics are influencing its products to be premiumised.
How critical is the launch of the facelift?
The Seltos is the most important model for Kia India. Four years after launching the model, we kicked off a study to understand what the next level of expectation could be from the Indian customers and hence we have to put out the most advanced new Seltos, with a high level of safety and design features, including the ADAS 2.
We were carefully looking at the market trend post Covid-19 and found that the market has changed from the price (sensitive) market to the demand market (high on features – premium). Hence our basic strategy is to position it in the premium segment. We want to lead the segment, despite packing the vehicle with advanced features, we will be competitive and aggressive.
How will the new launch help?
We expect to increase the market share with Seltos but new competitors are coming in this segment. The new players will expand the market, yet we will try to increase our share with the new advanced Seltos.
Volumes have peaked around 20,000, what is the ramp-up plan?
In three years, we have been able to utilise our full capacity of 3-3.5 lakh units. We will continue to expand our production capacity, based on the models we will put in this market. We are already operating in three shifts and there is enough for the current market share but we will expand further. We are already on the way to expanding our production capacity to around a minimum of 4.3-4.4 lakh units a year. By the time we have our new model coming in 2025, we will have enough capacity to cater to the increased demand. We are ready to meet any kind of demand from the market. While we have exports, the India market is a first priority for us. If need be, we may reduce exports to cater to the growing demand in the domestic market, we want to maintain our market share in India.
You said you are looking at launching an RV in 2025, which will be ICE and EV. Now, the only RV which you talk about is Carens, so can one assume that the Carens in its next face lift will have ICE and EV?
Yes. We can give you this small tip. We are thinking that there is some possibility for the Carens, and we are (also) developing the segment for the Indian market.
Carens for EV is what you are saying.
Something similar (not necessarily Carens), is on the way. Also, I had already promised in the market, in 2025, we will bring in a new model specially designed for India, which will have both EV and IC engines.
Your new K4 Carnival, what led to delays and what can we expect?
We don’t want old styles to come into the Indian market. We want the best, newest model to premiere here. Next year, we will develop the new K4, that is why we postponed the K4 till the next year and we will bring in the new Carnival.
What is your view on the MPV segment? With Carens you have been successful, however with Carnival, that has not been the case.
That’s an issue of allegiance of people to certain brands. They are really comfortable with the old models (like Innova). It is not easy to push customers. Hence we want to ensure that our new Carnival is a more comfortable and a more advanced model that people will like.
What is your EV strategy? Will we see more models and Kia adopting a CKD route?
We started with the EV6, a high premium EV. Next year, we also want to bring the EV9, which is the top-of-the-line product for us. We are also thinking and analysing how we can make the CKD for the EV6. There are lots of conditions in Korea and the global factories. So when we are serving those kinds of markets, why not, we will try. It is a top-down strategy, so EV6, EV9, some of them are going to be RV EVs with massive production in the mainstream market.
So, could that be a sub-four metre vehicle which is EV and ICE? Maybe a Sonet sized vehicle?
Yes, that’s right.
This interview was first published in Autocar Professional's July 15, 2023 issue.
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