Before anyone lectures me about the difference between the luxury (or near luxury) Model X EV and the more mainstream EV9, how one might appeal more to certain shoppers that put status above all else (and as such don’t care so much about price, or value), let me say this: hogwash. Yes, I sound like your grandpa, but trust me I’m (probably) not! Tesla only sells about 15,000-25,000 Model X’s in the US each year (and occasionally a bit more), and this year it's going to be much closer to the lower end of that range. That’s got to be the main reason they recently lowered Model X prices, again (with the base price currently at $79,990). They need to sell more of them, and fast! But most people in the market for 3-row SUVs actually care about the capabilities such a vehicle has and the cost to attain them (in other words, they place an emphasis on value). The approximately $25,000 price difference represents a lot of value to a lot of customers and I predict that will shave off a few hundred to a few thousand sales from Tesla (if not immediately, then by sometime next year when EV incentives should be available for the Kia, on top of its significantly lower starting price). It might even be more than that (and remember that other major markets around the world will also be getting the EV9).
Kia’s EV9 comes standard with seating for 7 adults (a pricey upgrade over the base Model X price), and 800V architecture (which enables faster charging than Tesla offers on any of its models, in theory). It will actually be slightly shorter and narrower than the Model X, though it will be a bit taller. The two vehicles will have similar interior volume, though the Tesla is slightly larger in that regard. And while Tesla has its falcon wing doors (a somewhat polarizing feature), potentially more capable level 2+ autonomous driving features, and a better charging network, I would argue that the last of those is really the only significant advantage for Tesla (for now). If we are talking about the top of the line Plaid X versus the top of the line EV9, which would likely be less of a price difference given the Plaid is only $10k more than the entry level X which suggests the top of the line EV9 may be only $15k or so less than the Plaid X. That means performance could also be a differentiating factor in favor of the X. The Plaid X will be significantly faster than the EV9, though the top spec EV9 won’t be a slouch either with 379 horses on tap. While people who value performance, in an SUV, may lean harder toward the Plaid version, I suspect Kia will have roughly equal success in drawing away a significant number of shoppers from Tesla and I predict price adjustment won’t be Tesla’s only response near or long term (think more competitive financing options, free add-ons like supercharging or lower cost upgrades to software, or even new models/trims in the more distant future). What’s more, the EV9 won’t be the only 3 row EV competitor to the Model X that will come in at a lower price point; the Hyundai Ioniq 7 (built on the same platform as the EV9) and other makes/models may ultimately drive Tesla to either introduce a new lower priced model or version to compete in the midsize EV SUV market.
What do you think? Would you cross shop these two vehicles? Do you have a preference for one over the other, and if so, why? Is price and value more important to you than status, performance, or other features? Please leave your comments and questions below.
Images courtesy of Kia and Tesla.
Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Torque News Kia or X for regular electric and hybrid news coverage.