Kia is pledging to sell one third of its vehicles this year as pure electric or hybrid in a trade-leading initiative as Britain moves towards zero emissions.
Selling 33 per cent of its vehicles in Britain that are in some way electrified, with a third of those fully electric battery vehicles — or about 10 per cent of all its sales — is nearly three times what the UK trade is forecasting.
It comes after this week’s surprise announcement by the government that it plans to ban the sale of new vehicles with internal combustion engines from 2035. This includes lower-emission hybrid and plug-in hybrids, even though they can run on purely electric, zero-emission mode for most of their journeys.
The South Korean carmaker’s initiative comes against the backdrop of European Union rules, which Britain has signed up to, to fine carmakers from this year if carbon dioxide emissions across the fleet of cars they sell top 95g of CO2 per kilometre travelled.
Carmakers will be fined €95 for every g/km of CO2 per car over the 95g/km target average. Forecasts indicate that this will cost the car industry billions of euros. The average for cars sold in Europe is about 120g/km and in the UK it is nearer 130g/km.
Paul Philpott, chief executive of Kia UK, said: “We have to do this.” If Kia does not sell many more low-emission vehicles in Britain, its largest European market, it will face fines. “Notwithstanding the financial burden, there would be reputational damage,” he said.
After ten years of sales growth in the UK, Kia is Britain’s eighth largest brand, outselling Nissan, Peugeot, Renault and Citroën. Mr Philpott said that it had cut sales targets by 6 per cent and had ditched volumes of small petrol cars and its gas-guzzling Stinger sports car for its £35,000 e-Niro and soon-to-be-launched e-Soul electric cars, in order to hit EU targets.
It plans to raise pure electric car sales from 700 last year to 9,000 this year. Mr Philpott said that customer interest could lead to its electric car order book being full by mid-year, although but if the government cut the present £3,500 taxpayer subsidy that could have an impact.
Latest figures show that nearly 12 per cent of UK annual 2.3 million car sales are electric, although only 2.7 per cent of the total are pure battery electric.