We will build a diverse portfolio of India-made cars, says MD of Kia Motors India

By: | Published: June 23, 2018 2:15 AM

At this year’s Auto Expo, while some big brands didn’t participate, Kia Motors of South Korea made a grand entry, by showcasing its global line-up of vehicles. Kia, which is building a plant in Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh, has developed a vehicle specifically for India, called the SP Concept, an SUV.

Kookhyun Shim, MD & CEO, has a key role in ensuring that the projected timeline and schedule that Kia Motors India has for India is adhered to and that the construction of the manufacturing facility is as per schedule.

At this year’s Auto Expo, while some big brands didn’t participate, Kia Motors of South Korea made a grand entry, by showcasing its global line-up of vehicles. Kia, which is building a plant in Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh, has developed a vehicle specifically for India, called the SP Concept, an SUV. Kookhyun Shim, MD & CEO, has a key role in ensuring that the projected timeline and schedule that Kia Motors India has for India is adhered to and that the construction of the manufacturing facility is as per schedule—the company is investing $1.1 billion. In an interview with FE’s Vikram Chaudhary, he says that while the SP concept “is inspired by India and combines everything that the Indian customers desire in a car, it’s just the beginning, and I’m sure we will build a diverse portfolio of India-made vehicles.”

Excerpts:

During Auto Expo 2018, Kia showcased its global line-up. Do you plan to make all those vehicles in India?

We had a great début at the Auto Expo. Our global line-up of 16 cars that we showcased included the SP Concept, which will be manufactured at our upcoming Anantapur plant in Andhra Pradesh—it’s a vehicle we are making specifically for India. However, it’s too early to comment which other models will be available in India post the SP Concept launch.

You also displayed a range of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. With the current policy environment, do these vehicles make sense for a market such as India?

We are future-ready, and have got technologically-advanced electric cars in our global portfolio. We will introduce electric cars in India when the market is ready for sustainable mobility, including infrastructure for charging stations. Globally, Kia will continue to expand its range of environment-friendly cars in the coming years, and plans to offer 16 electrified vehicles by 2025, including a fuel-cell electric vehicle (FCEV) in 2020.

Kia, reportedly, is ahead of schedule with the building of the Anantapur plant. Does this imply you can start selling cars in India ahead of the earlier-announced time-line?

Even though we are ahead of schedule, I think in the beginning of 2019 we should be in a better position to comment on the exact launch date of the SP Concept.

Will you share after-sales servicing or parts supply chain with Hyundai India?

We are a separate entity and will be operating as an independent business, including providing after-sales services to our consumers.

But can there be synergy between Kia India and Hyundai India?

Unlikely; Hyundai is our competitor in India, just like any other car company.

Have you finalised your dealer partners? Are you looking at those also who, say, already own or run a Hyundai dealership?

In our approach to our partner base, we are industry-agnostic, and are not limited to the auto sector alone. In fact, we are even open to partnering young-at-heart ambitious entrepreneurs who are new to the sector. Over the past few months, we have been receiving very good response from prospective dealers, but as the selection process is exhaustive, it will take some time to finalise.

So you mean people are showing interest in investing in a Kia dealership—and it can be a substantial investment—even though it’s a new company…

Indeed. We did dealership road-shows in August and September 2017, where we received a huge response, with over 5,000 interested dealer prospects from across sectors, including four-wheelers, two-wheelers and non-auto businesses. Our display at the Auto Expo only added to that response—we could garner their trust by making them experience the power of the Kia brand, our futuristic product range and our ambitious plans for India. I must add that we have a huge task ahead of us in selecting the best out of this pool.

How many cities do you plan to enter the very day you launch your first car?

We will cover the entire country effectively, with an all-India network.

Was the SP Concept exclusively planned for India?

It is developed as a global model, conceptualised by the world-renowned designer Peter Schreyer. The SP concept is inspired by India and combines everything that the Indian customers desire in a car. However, it’s just the beginning, and I’m sure we will build a diverse portfolio of India-made vehicles with world-class quality.

How many direct jobs have you created until now? How many are expected to be created by the time you finish constructing your plant?

We aim to generate over 3,000 jobs in the next five years in India. We are also undertaking skill development projects for skilling of manpower in the area around our plant.

There is still time before you launch your first car. How can you sustain the brand interest you had generated at the Auto Expo?

There is a lot of curiosity about the brand and the awareness is only rising with time. We have entered India as a challenger brand and will leave no stone unturned to make the right kind of noise through our experiential car drives and marketing campaigns, including our association with the on-going FIFA World Cup in Russia. We will keep engaging with the Indian consumers via a host of other similar opportunities.

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