The car brand with ‘the power to surprise’ slogan had car journalists at an exclusive media parley at her headquarter showroom at Adeola Odeku street, Victoria Island, Lagos on the 17th of September, 2021.
The event started with a welcome speech by the Marketing Manager, Kia Nigeria, Mr Olawale Jimoh who went straight into the discussion of the day where he introduced the new SUVs to be unveiled for the Nigerian people to enjoy. He spoke about the Kia Sonet which is an entry level sub compact sport utility vehicle. He explained that the name Sonet came from the phrase, SOcial NETwork which equally stands for ‘stylish and connected’ which is why the vehicle captures the stylishness of a car as well as connecting people from place to place. The Sonet has a 1.5L multi-injection engine with a 6 speed automatic transmission. The compact SUV come with a 2X4 setup and the trim available now is not exactly basic.
The creation of the car had robustness and economy factored in. It gives great fuel economy in whatever drive modes you may be on. Equipping of the vehicle as well as the signature tiger grille of the Kia brand which is enmeshed at the front makes the Sonet trendy and savvy. The Sonet also gives more in size and roominess when compared to the competitors in the entry level suv segment while giving the 8-inch cluster screen he said.
The vice president, Kia Nigeria, Mr Debanja Paul said that Kia doesn’t have much competition in the market for the entry level suv. He also said that people have started accepting the entry level all over the world if we check recent trends. The targets are small families, newly married couples, first-time suv owners, people who want long drives, high ground clearance and daily usability at a level of comfort with good economy.
Mr Wale Jimoh said that none of the Sonet’s counterparts offer leather seats which is a unique selling point for it. It also has smart phone connectivity, infotainment system and all these for a competitive price.
The Vice President, Business Development, Kia Nigeria, Mr Olu Tikolo said that the essence of the suv is to meet the need of those who want a car with off-road capabilities, decent ride height/ground clearance, impressive dimensions and it has about 400 litres of boot space which is huge for an entry level suv.
A question of price was raised and Mr. Wale Jimoh explained that the range of such SUVs in the market is between #12 million to 14 million and the Sonet goes for just #11.7m.
Another question came for why the SUVs from Kia always carry an S at the beginning like the Seltos, Sonet, Sorento, sportage and Soul. Mr Wale Jimoh said it is the sportiness and savvy nature of the SUVs.
The trend is not about having two or more trims now as people now order for what trims they want on their individual vehicles and that is called Purpose Built Vehicles (PBVs). It is no more about the brands but about individual needs. One may want a coupé while the other may want a GT.
On the question of Electric Vehicles (EVs), Kia is one of the leading brands across the world and before 2023, there will be 6 EVs from Kia. Locally though, the first EV to grace the Nigerian market was the electric Kia Soul in 2014/2015. To have EVs, there must be infrastructure in place like charging ports in strategic locations that would serve like the filling stations where people can drive in and recharge their EVs. The initial cost of owning an EV is high but the cost of ownership is extremely low and prices of cars have risen these days to a point where brand new cars have become luxuries so, we are still looking for ways to bring prices down says Mr Wale. He also said that they are still watching out for global trends while not shying away from our local realities. He also said that quite a number of the 7th senate members got one and Senator Ben-Murray Bruce still uses his till date.
Answering to the question of assembling in Nigeria, Mr Wale Jimoh said that there are stages of assembling process by the policy laid down which KIA had to key into in 2014. There are several like SKD 1, SKD 2, CKD, etc. You have to graduate from one level to the other with time and KIA is following up with the stages. KIA is one of the few auto assemblies in the country whose percentage of local content in their vehicle making is high. They are not just knocked down parts, however, to have a fully functional assembly or manufacturing plant in any country, you need to have supporting auxiliary manufacturers who would supply parts like batteries, tyres, spark plugs, trimmings, the seats, etc. The market drives investors and once the market is strong enough, that attracts investors which brings end-to-end value chain in assembling vehicles. The volume is currently not there but we are optimistic, said Mr Wale Jimoh.
One of the things spelt out in the auto policy is to make available finance schemes which are affordable, accessible, and as easy as possible with single digit interest rate or low double digit interest rates which is to be supported by the Federal government. There are talks to galvanize some of the financial institutions towards making it a reality.
Moving to the KIA Seltos, Mr Wale Jimoh explained that the name was derived from Greek mythology, the son of great Archilles, Celtos. What Celtos was was being stylish in bringing architectural masterpieces and setting the pace and that is what the KIA Seltos equally stands for.
The Seltos is bigger, wider, longer and more robust with a 1.6 litre engine with 16 inch alloy rims. Note that the Sonet comes with a 1.5 litre engine and 15 inch alloy rims. KIA says it is ‘bad ass’ by design which is for people who can dare. Mr Olu Tikolo, Vice President, Business Development, Kia Nigeria added that the Seltos has about 800 litres of boot space.
On the area of security, Mr. Wale said that the options of security in vehicles differ from individual to individual; some want tracking devices, others want voice recognition, some fingerprints, etc. Whatever a Customer wants for security is part of ‘Value Added Services’. The car has standard security features and KIA has also developed a technology called UVO which is an infotainment system where you could have your fingerprints registered and some would recognize you from a distance of about three blocks away and switch on/off the car and one practical example is the K5. It would even switch on the air conditioning before you get in. These are optional features.
He said that KIA also looks for the best finance schemes that would speak to the interest of the customers and help them own the vehicle. Tailor-made finance schemes with very low interest rates and they are currently in the advanced stage of having a partnership with one of the leading finance scheme providers in the country which would be unveiled very soon. The scheme is to bring all the financial scheme providers on board because one challenge has been that some of the potential customers would want to acquire a vehicle but won’t be willing to open an account with the bank in question. Some would say they already have a good relationship with their banks. So, you could just apply for a car finance scheme, get it sorted immediately and get the car delivered to you while you are still there.