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Kia Achieves Record U.S. Nov. Sales, Electrified Vehicle Sales Up Thanks To Hybrids

Kia has done it again! Their November U.S. auto sales are up more than 25% year-over-year, and set a new record, beating their previous best ever November sales by a healthy 8%. Kia’s electrified vehicle sales were also up 133% year-over-year, but again this is mostly due to increased sales of hybrid (HEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vehicles, and not electric vehicles (EVs).

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I keep asking myself, is it just me or are other journalists and media outlets totally ignoring the numbers Kia is reporting and just regurgitating the marketing oriented bullet points? Don’t get me wrong, Kia’s increasing sales is great news for the company. Their healthy growth in electrified vehicle sales is also indicative of positive direction in consumer spending and good progress toward (eventually) lowered carbon emissions from personal transportation and better air quality. But the devil is in the details here folks and I can not shout this any louder in this medium: Kia’s electrified sales growth in the U.S. is being led more by hybrids than EVs and we should keep our enthusiasm in check while studying what is actually happening with Kia’s sales more closely.

Let’s break down Kia’s most recent sales figures for the month of November and look back at the rest of this year compared to last year, too. Kia sold a pitiful amount of their current EV flagship, the EV6, in November. This is actually Kia’s worst sales month for the EV6 ever (and last month was their worst month ever before that)! Kia only managed to move 641 units of the EV6 in November, which is a decrease of almost 500% from their best sales month this year (March at 3,156 units). The EV6 has been in a downward sales trajectory in the U.S. since September, and if their December sales are similarly dismal, Kia may not breach the 20,000 unit sales mark this year for the EV6. To be fair, the EV6 didn’t go on sale here until February, but come on Kia, this is not the way!

If Kia’s EV6 sales are dropping off a cliff, how can they claim a record November with… EVs [is] pushing the brand ever higher? I basically gave away the answer above, and it is mostly because Kia’s HEV and PHEV sales are also increasing significantly. Kia stated that their electrified sales posted double or triple-digit sales increase the past five months. Here’s the other part of the answer though: Kia’s only EV on sale in the U.S. last year was the Niro EV which sold 8,717 units in 2021 (although there were 16 units of the discontinued 2019 Soul EV sold too). As such, all Kia had to do to see positive year-over-year EV sales was to sell more than 8,733 EVs, and that they certainly did given the EV6 sales alone (never mind an estimated 7,000+ Niro EV sales, so far this year). I guess we must give Kia some credit for selling what should end up being more than 27,000 EVs in the U.S. this year.

Let’s revisit the rest of Kia’s electrified model lines and estimate how many PHEVs (which are capable of almost as much emissions reduction as EVs, depending) and HEVs they’re selling. Kia’s PHEVs are: The Sorento PHEV, the Sportage PHEV, and the Niro PHEV. Their HEVs are the same 3 models, just drop the P. Kia does not report the sales of their HEV and PHEV vehicles separately, so we have to guess based on what information they do give us and what we can gather via other means. The Niro (all 3 electrified versions) sold 3,294 units last month and is already 6% over its total sales mark from last year which could mean, as long as Kia moves another 3,100+ Niro s this month, that 2022 will be its best sales year ever. Note all, or almost all of the Niro’s November sales would have been hybrid models. December will be the only month this year when all 3 versions of the new 2023 Niro are on sale. That leaves the two flavors of the Sportage and Sorento hybrids for which I have previously estimated sales patterns. To estimate where Kia’s sales are for those, now, I am just going to lazily reuse them for the second half of the year since there really isn’t a reliable way to get precision. That would mean Kia may be closing in on 12,000 - 14,000 Sportage and Sorento PHEV sales by the end of the year and about 18,000 - 24,000+ HEVs, if reasonably accurate. All told, if Kia ends up selling a combined total of around 65,000 electrified vehicles this year, that would mean around 10% of their total U.S. sales were electrified vehicles (with less than half of that being EVs). Figures for 2021 were roughly 5% of total sales and roughly 2% plug-in vehicles (EVs + PHEVs). You can’t call that anything but progress, I guess.

What do you think, is an increase of over 33,000 more electrified Kias worth getting excited about? Perhaps we can blame the pandemic, the negative economic trends the world is facing, or other geopolitical events for what I consider to be a mildly disappointing amount of EVs and PHEVs being sold. Are you like me and expect Kia to have sold more plug-in vehicles than this?

Image courtesy of Kia.

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 Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.

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