By on December 30, 2019

A fairly stylish electric concept car revealed this past year by Kia will become a reality in 2021, the automaker’s European chief operating officer claims. The Kia Imagine, a high-riding, fastback C-segment offering, will be put into production on a dedicated platform not only because the company feels it’s a potentially successful vehicle, but because it has little choice in the matter.

Come 2020, the European Union plan to level punitive fines on any automaker caught breaking its increasingly stringent fleetwide emissions standards. It’s a case of go electric, or pay up.

Indeed, Kia Europe Chief Operating Officer Emilio Herrera comes across sounding a little like late Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne in his interview with Automotive News Europe, bemoaning the expected markup (and potential unprofitability) of small electric compliance cars, like those planned by Renault.

The French automaker plans to offer a 10,000 euro ($11,000) EV within a handful of years; Herrera claims a gas-free version of its Picanto city car — a vehicle under consideration by Kia brass — would nearly double the subcompact’s price. At the same time, he doesn’t see the government incentives offered by European nations lasting over the long term. Lose the subsidy, and you’re left with a car that either doesn’t sell, or can’t generate a profit.

As such, Kia is keeping its main focus on larger, less vulnerable EVs. It already has the Soul and Niro electrics, and come 2021, it will offer the far less boxy Imagine — or whatever name it ends up applying to this vehicle.

“One of our biggest challenges is to make EVs profitable, and the smaller the car, the more complicated that is. Therefore, a 10,000-euro EV is very challenging and not very realistic,” Herrera said.

“Why do we believe that the EV market will grow? The main reason is that we have no other choice. Why is Volkswagen suddenly heading in this direction now? Not because they like it but because they are forced. Volkswagen Group sells 4 million cars in Europe; they need to offset that with EVs to avoid paying the EU’s CO2 fines.”

Because of the huge take rate for mini cars in various European countries, Kia is being forced into building EV variants for the A- and B-segments, Herrera said. “Our goal is to have an electric car in almost every main segment where we compete. Even if it’s not confirmed today, I think we have no choice [but to build an electric Picanto].”

As for the coupe-like Imagine, all Herrera would say is, “The plan is for this to become a mass-produced vehicle in one or two years and to have a dedicated electric platform.”

More hybrids, both mild, conventional, and plug-in, will proliferate throughout the Kia stable, he added. When the Imagine appears, expect it to lose the suicide doors typical of splashy concept vehicles, as well as the 21 dashboard screens Kia installed to poke fun at other automakers. As for power and range, that’s TBD. Autocar has reported that Kia engineers would like to attain a driving radius of 500 miles on the European WLTP cycle.

American availability remains a question mark.

[Images: Kia Motors]

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28 Comments on “Kia Imagine Bound for Production As EU Leaves Automaker ‘No Choice’...”

  • avatar

    None of this sound exactly promising when “the government made us do it” is the reason for launch. I’m not even against the state trying to influence the market for specific policy goals but this looks like a disaster in the making.

    I can see A LOT of platform sharing about to take place for these EVs to the point of every maker having a re-skinned version of the same car. Just anything to bring the costs down so it’s something close to profitable.

  • avatar

    Sharing a common EV platform would be a great way for manufacturers to go. In addition to saving money on development and production, it would allow a large number of shared parts, which means that consumers would be able to get repair parts down the road.
    I can’t imagine that if one bought a limited production EV, that 10 or 15 years from now one would be able to buy parts to keep it driveable.

  • avatar

    “The French automaker plans to offer a 10,000 euro ($11,000) EV within a handful of years;”

    Say what? 11K? Really?

  • avatar
    R Henry

    It will be interesting to observe how the European electrical grid copes with more and more EVs coming online. I would be surprised if the next 10 years are trouble-free.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My EV added 20% to my home electricity consumption. Even if every new car was electric, the grid already has that much margin most of the time, especially at night when most people would be charging their cars.

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        20% multiplied by millions becomes a big demand. Where I live in SoCal, our grid is stressed on warm summer afternoons, forcing me to turn off my air conditioner and postpone clothes washing.

        I have often heard the argument that EVs will be charged at night, but still…broad adaptation of EV transport will require substantial expansion of power generation and transmission infrastructure.

        In my home state, greens have successfully sued to prevent new power plant building permits since 1972. Yes, that means CA has not built a new power plant since Richard Nixon was POTUS. Greens demand electric cars, but Greens simultaneously sue to prevent new power plant construction. Something has got to give! Renewables will never bridge the gap.

        • 0 avatar

          Source for your claim CA hasn’t built a power plant since ’72? I suspect the answer is your arse. IIRC, CA built natgas plants at breakneck speed following the Enron debacle, so they could never be held hostage that way again.

          • 0 avatar

            Yes, it appears the source was “arse.” I count way over 100 plants becoming operational in recent years here. That includes some peakers and some new plants built on old sites, but it’s a lot more than zero. Most are natural gas, but there’s also geothermal, solar, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX


          “…broad adaptation of EV transport will require substantial expansion of power generation and transmission infrastructure”

          Right now, EV sales are about 2% of the US market, and comprise a microscopically small fraction of the US fleet.

          It will take many, many years to come close to the 20% demand increase figure I threw out earlier.

          The grid growth won’t be taxed by EV growth nearly as much as it will be taxed by population growth and economic growth.

          • 0 avatar

            “…broad adaption of…”

            First, we don’t call them “broads” any more. What are you James Cagney? But CA is now requiring most new residential construction to install solar panels or utilize “community” solar farms. As it is, solar panel installs (even where not required) are a booming business in CA and the sun belt.

            And it’s not like CA wouldn’t love to further tax your power consumption. They (Edison) already charge more for peak hours usage.

            So the infrastructure isn’t or won’t be a future problem, no matter the EV uptake. And 3-phase power is available, or in use at most businesses in a commercial zone.

      • 0 avatar

        The trouble is, heating loss in the utility conductors varies as the square of the current. It’s known as line loss. Even if the increase in load is only 20%, your typical utility has feeders that are near overload on either very cold or very hot days right now as things stand. Not quite bad enough to build another circuit in normal use, but add EVs and the problem arrives. If you go from 250 amps to 300 amps, the usual maximum, then losses go up in the ratio of 9 to 6.25, heat given off onto the atmosphere. There’s an inefficiency the claptrap EV crowd never mention. Let’s just chuck energy away! Too bad about that reality. Then there’s the fraudulent mpgE, which essentially postulates that the potential energy of a gallon of gas is immaculately transferred unbothered by thermodynamics to the battery of an EV as 34 kWh. After tootling through a powerplant, a gallon of oil gives about 14 kWh, to be further reduced by line losses. That’s also reality. But hey, why let physics get in the way of a genyooine movement?

        • 0 avatar

          Yes, let’s painstakingly account for line losses while making zero allowance for energy consumed and emissions produced in mining, refining, and transporting gasoline.

          JFC. This stuff has been studied to death. Well to wheel, apples to apples, the EV is cleaner than an ICE-only car 100% of the time. Let’s cut the crap.

          • 0 avatar

            “JFC. This stuff has been studied to death. Well to wheel, apples to apples, the EV is cleaner than an ICE-only car 100% of the time. Let’s cut the crap.”

            Why do people just make stuff up? Even the Union of Concerned Scientists acknowledge that the most efficient ICE cars are cleaner than electric vehicles in areas with a heavy reliance on coal plants.

    • 0 avatar

      “It will be interesting to observe how the European electrical grid copes with more and more EVs coming online. ”

      There is a lot of coal available in Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine and Germany.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the Euro grid is pretty robust. The maximum that my Chevy Volt can charge at on a dedicated Level 2 line is actually the same amount it can pull from an ordinary European household outlet. American utilities neglect infrastructure like power lines because the rules that guide their operation don’t incentivize it — and nor do those rules punish them for, say, spending their entire line inspection budget on executive bonuses and stockholder payouts instead (I’m giving you the stink eye right now, PG&E).

  • avatar

    as in, “Imagine! Buying a Kia!”

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      I bought a new Kia Forte in 2011. I would buy another one in a heartbeat.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m in the same boat. The one I had was pleasant enough, and looked decent. That I had challenges with the specific car I had doesn’t dissuade me from looking again.

        They just have to swap places with Hyundai again as far as attractive cars go.

    • 0 avatar

      Stop living in the 1990s.

      Kia, along w/ Hyundai, is the leading Asian automaker in the EU (in some countries Kia outsells Hyundai; in others, Hyundai outsells Kia).

      Kia has also has hit the top 5 marques in places like Australia (just wait til Kia and Hyundai get their HiLux competitors); 4th in India solely on the strength of just 1 model, the Seltos (Kia just started selling autos there).

  • avatar

    Maybe we will end up at having 3 standardised Euro Platforms “Eu01”, “Eu02” & “Eu03” built by the PSA/FCA conglomerate, then shipped off to coachbuilders for the body to be done. Back to the good old days, buy a chassis and have your favourite coachbuilder build the body of your dreams. Arise, Vanden Plas, Bugatti, Vauxhall, Rolls Royce, Daimler. Resurrect your coachbuilder of choice for the colonies. Everybody will be driving 100, 200, 400-mile range vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford has already contracted with VW under their agreement to buy the VW EV platform, onto which they’re putting their own body.

  • avatar

    This mad rush to electric cars fascinates me. I certainly have no problem with electric cars but I do think it premature (leaving the politics of doing so aside) to so bluntly force them on an entire continent as the EU is doing. I understand how they got to this decision though: the VW Diesel fiasco forced their hand. They had to react, and there were only two options (in their way of thinking) – gasoline instead of diesel or electric. Well, gasoline would be viewed as a step back and require a retooling of the infrastructure, and that left electric. Electric also has political appeal as it is less polluting, and popular with many people, and has geopolitical appeal as it allows the EU to lessen their dependence on Russian and Middle-Eastern oil. The infrastructure is mostly already in place in the form of electric transmission lines; only “filling stations” are necessary and for electric cars that’s no harder than installing a telephone box by the side of the road.

    I do think that there are some problems: electric cars are still more expensive than an ICE for a vehicle of equivalent capability, and the costs do not scale down linearly. This amounts to a regressive tax on the poor. On the geopolitical front the EU is trading their dependence on Russia and the Middle East for dependence on China for rare earths for batteries. I have no data (does anyone?) on how much additional electricity will be required for wide-spread adoption but there obviously will be, and the argument “they only charge at night” is rather offset by the fact that solar panels sleep at night.

    So, back to where I started – the next five years are going to be fascinating.

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