Kia Backing Up Its Belief in BEVs, Marketing Exec Says

The automaker tells dealers they can sell BEVs, no matter their location.

Alysha Webb, Contributor

December 20, 2023

3 Min Read
Kia exec says BEV offerings bring new customers to dealers' showrooms.Kia

LOS ANGELES – The market for battery-electric vehicles is not dependent on geography, says Russell Wager, vice president of marketing at Kia America.  

“Every single (Kia dealer) can sell (EVs) because there are customers in every market that are thinking about buying an EV,” Wager tells Wards during the recent Los Angeles auto show. 

While some automakers have scaled back their electric vehicle production plans, Kia has not, Wager says, pointing out that the South Korean automaker will invest more than $200 million to add production capacity for the EV9 at its West Point, GA, plant and also has committed to investing $5.5 billion to produce BEVs and batteries for the Kia, Hyundai and Genesis brands in Savannah, GA.  

Kia also is “overinvesting” in BEV marketing “to let people know we should be on their EV consideration list,” says Wager (pictured, below left). “We are going to have a full lineup of EVs and we are going to overinvest to let people know that.” 



Kia dealers currently have three electric models on offer: the Niro EV, EV6 and EV9. The latter is available for presale. 

During the LA show, Kia previewed two concept BEVs, the EV3 and the EV4. Kia hasn’t announced if or when they will be available in the U.S., but we usually don’t show a concept that we don’t intend to bring to market,” Wager says.  

All of Kia’s more than 775 dealers sell BEVs.  

A Kia dealer must be certified by the manufacturer to sell and service BEVs, but there is no mandate on the number of BEVs a certified dealer must stock, Wager says. The automaker does ask that a dealer stock one of each model, however.  

A dealer selling BEVs must install two Level 2 chargers and one DC fast charger. They also must invest in BEV-specific service tools and salesperson training. The average investment amount depends on the market the dealership is in, Wager says.  

Kia has found that its BEV offerings are bringing a new type of customer into its dealerships, he says. With the EV6, launched in May 2021, over 75% of customers were new to the Kia brand, higher than expected, Wager says.  

“We are conquesting from some luxury brands,” he says, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Land Rover. “We did anticipate (customers) new to the brand (but) we didn’t anticipate as much from luxury (segments).” 

Kia is taking that into consideration “to see who we should talk to for the EV9,” Wager says.  

Dealers gained experience in serving that level of customer during 2019 when they began selling the non-electric Telluride, he says.  

“It brought in people with a higher income, higher education (and) higher expectations,” says Wager. “It was a preview of EVs (and a reminder that) the service and treatment they give a customer is just as important as the product.” 

While Kia salespeople must go through training to sell BEVs, the automaker leaves the specific sales approach up to dealers. That can vary according to location, Wager says. For example, a California customer may have more knowledge about owning an EV than one in Texas, he says.  

“The best advice we have given our dealers is, know how much education (about EVs) your customers do or don’t have,” says Wager. “North Dakota might be the state with zero education on EVs, so you would start with explaining you can charge your car in the rain. (The) California (customer) wants to know where the fast chargers are.”  

About the Author(s)

Alysha Webb


Based in Los Angeles, Alysha Webb has written about myriad aspects of the automotive industry for more than than two decades, including automotive retail, manufacturing, suppliers, and electric vehicles. She began her automotive journalism career in China and wrote reports for Wards Intelligence on China's electric vehicle future and China's autonomous vehicle future. 

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