In our tests of electric vehicles, we found the Kia Soul EV a solid all-around solution for consumers looking to go green with a second car. Yet this urban EV has not found a major audience even in California, where charging stations are everywhere and state incentives knock down the sticker price. Upon announcement Kia will expand Soul EV sales to four states in the Northeast, we have to wonder if the funkiest electric car around will find an audience in New York and beyond.
A Kia company statement announced the expansion of the Soul EV market to a total of 19 dealerships in New York (8), New Jersey (6), Maryland (3), and Connecticut (2) in the final three months of 2015. After launching in California and becoming available in five more U.S. states earlier in 2015, these four markets will make it an even 10 for the Soul EV.
Kia’s release cited a “a high level of demand” for the Soul EV in California, but the particulars are difficult to nail down since the automaker continues to lump Soul EV sales stats together with those of the popular gasoline model. (Through September, Soul was in 31st place among all vehicles on the U.S. market.) According to a spokesman, Kia is considering releasing EV sales stats once the network of dealerships expand.
So far, what we can gather is sales have been light. According to InsideEVs, which tracks plug-in car sales through requests for EV rebates and other means, estimates Soul EV sales near 727 units through September, or an average of 80 sales per month in 2015. That performance, if accurate, would place it among the lowest-selling EVs on the market. But availability may not have been able to meet demand. There are reasons to expect that to change.
Kia Motors of Korea has planned to produce up to 5,000 units per year of the Soul EV, which would allow for approximately two to three times its current sales pace in America. Certainly, the 19 added dealerships on the northern East Coast would necessitate increased availability if consumers plan to buy the car in any volume.
As for charging infrastructure in New York and other Northeast states, there is a foundation in place even if it remains a work in progress. Orth Hedrick, Kia’s vice president of product planning, cited the “growing infrastructure programs” in the area as one of the reasons the Soul EV found four new home states. The automaker plans to install charging stations in each of the 19 dealerships, which will provide a mini-network of access for consumers in these areas.
Beyond these plans and speculation, it is unclear just how large a market the Kia Soul EV could possibly find and whether the automaker would adjust production to meet larger demand. As the automaker’s centerpiece in its Clean Mobility program, the electric Soul remains an important model for Kia, even if just to enhance its green car credentials in the public eye.
Let’s not forget Soul EV still has the longest electric range outside of a Tesla (at least until the 2016 Nissan Leaf debuts). Maybe a fair share will end up taking Manhattan after all.