Kia Motors made a big bang debut in the Indian market at the Auto Expo in February 2018. It showcased the SP Concept compact SUV at the show with plans to launch the vehicle in the market in the second half of 2019. The SP Concept in its production form will take on the Hyundai Creta and Renault Duster. More interestingly, Kia Motors India will launch more vehicle in the coming time in the Indian market in order to claim its spot as one of the top five carmakers in India by sales volume. The company today announced India's first ever Official Match Ball Carriers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. On the sidelines of the event, we got a chance to interact with Manohar Bhat, Head, Sales & Marketing, who gave us an insight into the company's plans for India.
KIA Motors' plan to be a leading carmaker:
Bhat said that in order to be a successful brand in India, it's important to have a nationwide sales & service network. At the time of the launch of the SP Concept in India, Kia Motors India will have a nationwide network in place, he added. However, he didn't divulge any details on the exact number of dealerships and touch points by next year.
The company's upcoming plant in Andhra Pradesh's Anantpur District unit will commence work in the second half of 2019. The plant will have a capacity of 300,000 units per annum and once the entire capacity is realised, Kia Motors India should be among the top 5 carmakers in the country, Bhat said. He also added that the Indian plant will primarily cater to local demands and exports aren't a priority for the company right now.
In order to be competitive on the cost front, Kia Motors India will need to heavily localise its vehicles as the competition is pretty tough in the segments being looked at by the company. Talking about the same, Bhat said that the company is already in touch with suppliers to decide upon the localisation rate and possibilities. He agreed that localisation is important to get competitive pricing but declined to speak about the intended rate of local content with the SP Concept.
Kia Motors, globally has a wide product portfolio spanning across segments and hence the company is looking at launching relevant products after the SP Concept but denied disclosing the timeline. The company is presently evaluating options but we strongly believe that the Rio hatchback, Optima premium sedan and Sportage SUV make a strong case for the Indian market. The premium hatchback and SUV segments are high-volume segments and if Kia Motors is to realise its 300,000 production capacity, these segments will be crucial for the company to crack.
With the kind of products Kia has globally, it enjoys the luxury of not having to develop a brand new India-specific portfolio. Sharing platforms with Hyundai also give it the cushion of being able to develop India-specific products quickly and at a lower cost. However, Kia Motors India needs to ensure that it gets the localisation plan working well at the earliest. The company will primarily operate in segments sitting apart from each other at just Rs 1 to 2 lakh and hence getting a competitive price-tag will be crucial from day one. Kia Motors India also needs to be smart with its product-packaging and positioning. Being a new brand, it's imperative for them to hit bull's eye in these two areas else the catch-up could get tougher with time.
The company has all the required pieces of the great Indian jigsaw puzzle so the only thing that matters now is putting it together. Easy as it may sound, we've seen multiple times in past that putting the Indian car sales puzzle can be a tough task for the largest carmakers on the planet too so it'll be interesting to follow the moves of Kia Motors India over the next few months.