Why do I say that? It is because as Kia’s own press release points out that reservations are “exclusively available” through its dealer network, starting on October 16th. That means people won’t be able to directly reserve an EV9 through Kia’s website and will likely see no benefit, per se, from this “opportunity” beyond getting to purchase an EV9 at an inflated price, a bit earlier than others. Kia dealers in particular have been inclined to charge markups on their new electrified and in demand vehicles. Some people’s enthusiasm will not be deterred by this somewhat banal announcement from Kia, and they may be happy to pay a $750 deposit for the privilege. Call me a cynic if you like, but two years ago I paid a $1,000 deposit to get the very first plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Kia Sorento to be sold in my state, and also an $8,000 mark-up, and yes I even got a few extras thrown in too (like 1 year of free premium connectivity services), faintly echoing what early buyers of the EV9 get too. To be fair Kia is also throwing in a portable charger, some free charging and 3 years of maintenance too, which honestly is totally worth it so EV9 buyers are getting good value for their deposit. In my case the deposit was something the dealer implemented though, not Kia, so it isn’t exactly the same in that sense either, but my point is that Kia isn’t really doing anything here except trying to generate some hype when they absolutely do not need to be doing that. Their product already has all the hype it needs, built in. What they should be doing is not enabling dealers to price gouge (which is what having a dealer only reservation system sets up). Dealer mark-ups, which will follow on the majority of those deposits that turn into sales, are going to leave bad tastes in the mouths of every single buyer that ends up paying them and will only serve to sour sales or drive customers elsewhere, more often than not. Sure, some of those buyers may be like me when I bought my PHEV: in some version of a scenario where they can’t wait, don’t have the time, or can otherwise rationalize the overpayment in some way (pandemic scarcity, etc.).
Eventually, dealers that are charging ridiculous markups or “market adjustments” just because they can are going to start losing business to companies and dealers that do not charge markups and this will hurt Kia’s sales in a tangible way. Maybe in the initial months of sales for their new vehicles this doesn’t even register for Kia, but in the short-medium term, it will almost unquestionably come back to haunt them because it already is (this is why many buyers are opting for less expensive hybrids). I can already anticipate that social media will frequently be full of complaints about Kia dealers charging thousands of dollars in upcharges for EV9’s if Kia does not proactively discourage such behavior among their dealers. At this point I have zero expectation that Kia would do that, given they really haven’t so far and that no other establishment manufacturer has successfully been able to fully quash the blatant gouging practices of their dealers either. If direct to consumer brands like Tesla continue to take market share away from establishment manufacturers, dealers that engage in this sales behavior will only hasten the migration of their customers to other options. Just look at the current scenario: a potential EV customer can buy a base Tesla Model 3 for about $39,000 before the federal tax rebate, or about $31,500 after the federal tax rebate (not including state or local incentives) with 272 miles of range, full access to the nations most established and user friendly charging network, and solid resale value should one decide they need something else. Though Chevy, Nissan, VW, Hyundai, Kia and others offer EVs that are in the same price point, potentially, arguably none of them present the same value equation as Tesla does (for a variety of reasons but their charging speed, charging network, resale value, performance or feature set are just a few) as none of them have the pricing transparency that Tesla has.
So, what do you think? Might Kia be doing consumers a disservice by only allowing reservations to be placed through dealerships? Will it ultimately result in a loss of sales or a slower ramp? PLease leave your questions and comments below.
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 Torque News Kia or X for regular electric and hybrid news coverage.