Sounding a New Era in Mobility With Elias El-Achhab

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Elias El-Achhab, Chief Operating Officer, Kia Canada. PHOTO Kia Canada

Kia Canada’s highly anticipated EV6 marks a new strategy for the company

In July, Kia Canada teamed up with renowned Canadian music artist Fefe Dobson to host a one-of-a-kind concert.

Electric Sound not only provided an opportunity for Canadians to view an amazing musical event but the amps, speakers and guitars were powered by Kia’s highly anticipated battery-electric vehicle, the EV6.

Scheduled to be introduced this fall, the EV6 signifies a new approach to mobility from Kia and a major shift from the traditional concept of personal mobility.

To find out more and what this represents for the brand, its dealers and also the Canadian automotive industry, Autosphere interviewed Elias El-Achhab, Chief Operating Officer, Kia Canada.

Kia’s sustainable mobility strategy for Canada

Autosphere: From a Canadian perspective, what does Kia’s sustainable mobility strategy really mean?

Elias El-Achhab: Sustainable mobility has a lot of different definitions but what it means for us [at Kia] is a few things.

First of all, it signals the beginning of a shift away from the traditional manufacturing-based business model, and toward a more mobility-based business model.

Secondly, we have gone as far as removing the word ‘Motors’ from our corporate name. We’re no longer Kia Motors since we are instead focused on mobility in terms of service, terms electrification, as well as in terms of purpose-built vehicles and sustainable business processes.

When we refer to sustainability, we’re not just talking about electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, but a holistic long-term approach to sustainability from a manufacturing standpoint, including the materials we’re using to build our vehicles.

It’s a whole new way to look at the automotive business.

Plan S and electrification

Can you provide more details about Plan S and the move toward greater electrification in Kia’s Canadian lineup?

EEA: ‘Plan S’ was introduced a little while ago, and the ‘S’ stands for ‘shift.’ It’s our shift away from the old model and into electrification and it’s based on a few different principles.

First and foremost, it’s about electrification and moving into EVs that are specifically built that way from the ground up. It’s also about incorporating more plug-in and regular hybrids into our model lineup. It’s also about adding the ability to build purpose-built vehicles, which can be scaled in height, width, length and also seating configurations.

Then, there’s also the idea of mobility as a service, plus a final element, which concerns autonomous vehicle technology that is slowly being rolled out.

Kia EV6 highlights

Tell us a little about the EV6 and what it represents in Canada from a brand perspective?

EEA: The EV6 is really the first true showcase of everything we’ve just talked about—a combination of our new brand and brand direction as well as our overall global strategy.

The EV6 is built on what we call GMP (our Global Modular Platform for electric vehicles), so it is a ground-up EV that incorporates the battery pack right into the chassis. This allows us to incorporate a bigger battery pack and also enables us to do some pretty cool things.

For example, we can charge from 10% to 80% in just 18 minutes, with our high voltage charging system. This is something that is leaps and bounds ahead of where we are today in the marketplace.

It allows, on average, a charging rate of a little under four and a half minutes per 100 km and enables a 480 km range on these vehicles, as well as providing additional storage and additional configurations for the interior—enabling it to be more beneficial to everyday drivers.

Kia EV6 appeal for Canadians

Are there any particular aspects of this vehicle you feel will be of significant appeal for Canadian consumers?

EEA: First and foremost is the high-speed charging we’ve just been talking about—the ability to go from a 10% to 80% charge in just 18 minutes. That’s a huge advantage, especially when you are driving across our vast landscape.

The fact that the EV6 has a battery heating system, as well as a heat pump that’s specifically designed for colder climates, I think, is going to be crucial for our Canadian winters.

And of course, there’s the V2L (Vehicle to Load) function—which allows the vehicle to provide additional electrical load capability. This means you’re able to use the battery power stored inside the vehicle to power external devices such as a TV or an AC unit for over 24 hours.

You can also use it to power equipment at a concert like we did at the Electric Sound event—using it to power guitar amps and speakers for over 20 minutes while barely using 1% of the charge from the vehicle.

More recently, we announced that Kia had received the carbon footprint certificate for the EV6, the first vehicle of ours to do so. So, there’s lots of good news around the EV6 and how it appeals to Canadians.

EV6 and Kia retailers

As many of our readers are dealers, what do you think the introduction of the EV6 represents for Kia’s network of retailers in this country?

EEA: The EV6 really represents the next phase of electrification for us at Kia.

We have been selling EVs, hybrids and plug-in hybrids since 2014 and we have a strong dealer network when it comes to that.

Our dealers are very well trained and we have a certification program in play, but I think the EV6 signifies that we have to go over and above from just having a select crew of people that are certified at the dealership to having the entire dealership certified—making products like this part of the day-to-day transaction process. I think our dealers in seeing these new vehicles will be very supportive, they have been so far.

Overall, this widespread certification and support is part of our strategy to make sure we stay ahead of the market and is reflected in the strength of the dealer network we have.

Kia EV6 Electric Sound Event

How did the idea of the Kia EV6 Electric Sound Event come about and what were some of the motivating factors that led to this amazing and unique experience?

EEA: We were looking to do something unique.

It is a big deal to be launching a new brand like this and along with it a new model that really showcases our brand strategy moving forward.

We wanted to go above and beyond and we found a parallel with Fefe Dobson who was also reinventing herself. She has a new single that’s out and is coming back into the market. She has a new look and feel as an artist and she is also local and Canadian. Fefe is extremely talented and so we thought the parallel was very good and felt she was the right ambassador to showcase her and our new brand strategy.

We reached out and she was interested and proved very, very helpful in setting up the Electric Sound event. We had a look to see what we could do to really stand out and the first thing that came to mind, was the fact that the biggest electrical draw at an event like this is the amp and the speakers at the concert, so we thought, well, what if we had the car power this? And there you have it.

We received a very good response from the automotive media, from our dealer body, and also from social media and influencers, as well as the people we invited to the event. We invited up to 3,000 people and the feedback was just phenomenal.

Response to the EV6

In the aftermath of the concert what has been the response to the event and also the EV6?

EEA: I think the response to the EV6 has been as good as, if not better than what we were hoping for.

The real test, of course, is going to be when we actually get people into the vehicle which will happen this fall. Everyone’s excited to get into it and currently we’re getting lots of requests for people to test drive the vehicle–to be able to run footage and report on it and many who want to purchase the very first EV6 that lands in the country.

The fact that we’re getting this much demand before we have even released any more information or pricing or anything to that effect on the vehicle is simply mind-blowing.

Movement That Inspires

Is there anything else you’d like to mention regarding Movement That Inspires or any plans you can share with us going forward?

EEA: Our Movement That Inspires initiative is an all-encompassing strategy and although we’re talking right now about the EV6 and the electrification side of things, we are not leaving the internal combustion engine model by the wayside by any means.

We are still supporting internal combustion engine vehicles, and we’ll continue to do so until the time comes when they’re no longer needed, so we still have options for customers.

We basically want to make sure that no matter what your mobility needs are, we have something that fits—whether it’s small cars, SUVs, internal combustion, hybrids, plug-in hybrids or battery electric vehicles.

We want to have the full lineup available for customers, and also, we’re working towards a new strategy for fleet companies, to match up to our vehicle offerings to exactly what they want and need for their business.



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