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IN CONVERSATION WITH KUSHAL SHRESTHA, KIA NEPAL

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Kushal Shrestha, Sr. Manager, Automotive & Heavy equipment, Marketing and Brand management at Continental Trading Enterprises Pvt. Ltd, talks about the benefits of owning a KIA Soul EV and KIA Motors’ presence in the Nepalese market. Excerpts: 

HOW SATISFIED ARE YOU WITH THE PERFORMANCE AND SALES OF KIA MOTORS IN NEPAL?

Well firstly, we don’t want to be satisfied ever because, if we’re satisfied there is no progress, or worse, the motivation gets lost to reach a level that you want to achieve. We are, however, happy that we have been able to fill a void that was in the market for entry level vehicles. We are also thrilled that our customers are getting the same Picanto as that of our European customers.

AS COMPARED TO OTHER KOREAN COUNTERPARTS, HOW DO YOU ASSESS THE PERFORMANCE OF KIA MOTORS IN NEPAL?

KIA being limited to Korean brands would be too humble. It is amongst the top 5 automobile brands in the US and amongst the top 3 in the UK. So, we would not want to limit our competition to just Korean brands in the global perspective but in the overall automobile industry.

In the past, the main concern for KIA was that we were lacking in some of the technical aspects like aerodynamics and reliability, but since then we have been able to improve on that with the Sportage. Today, the design standards have elevated and KIA being compared to economical cars has been replaced with us being compared to premium class brands. We are very satisfied by that.

In terms of Nepali automobile industry, KIA has the best design and quality but not that good pricing. But if customers can visualize all the cars from every Korean brand in Nepal, we would like to say that KIA Sportage is the most reasonably priced SUV in Nepal with very good aesthetics. However, in the entry level segment, we have had a hard time to efficiently price our vehicles because of the astronomical tax structure.

WHAT ACCORDING TO YOU ARE THE SEGMENTS IN WHICH KIA NEEDS TO FOCUS MORE ON?

In the Nepali context, KIA has to focus on the entry level vehicles and we need to penetrate that segment. The KIA Picanto is now available again with a 75 percent buy-back guarantee. Obviously, there are some terms and conditions that apply but that is one of the best offers that you can get in the market.

People think KIA does not have a high resale value but what customers have in their mind is not because of the brands but by the number of vehicles in the market. What they have to realize is that we need to see it in a long term basis.

HOW KIA LOOKS AT THE ELECTRIC VEHICLE MARKET IN NEPAL? WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES?

We are very proud of the KIA Soul EV. Yes, there were other electric cars but none of them were able to make a statement like the Soul EV. The KIA Soul EV has more features than other fossil fuel based cars. We have heating systems, ABS, and 6 airbags to name a few. We have had reviews from previous electric car owners who have had a lot of complaints with their cars but when they came for their test drive of the Soul EV, they such good things to say about it, and most important thing is that they feel comfortable about owning one. Also, the KIA Soul EV is giving them a sense of responsibility by reducing their dependency on fossil fuels and preserving them for future generations.

IT TOOK LONG FOR NEPALI CONSUMERS TO ACCEPT ELECTRIC VEHICLES. WHAT ACCORDING TO YOU IS THE KEY FACTOR WHICH RESTRAINS NEPALI CUSTOMERS FROM BUY EV’s?

The first thing is that, all the EV’s we have sold are owned as a second car. The charging stations can be a hassle in the minds of the public. There is a need to have facilities and resources in different parts of Nepal when we go for long drives. In Nepal, the only thing that is holding back the EV is the problem in the convenience of charging the vehicle.

HOW MANY KIA SOUL EVS HAVE YOU SOLD SO FAR? WHO ARE YOUR TARGET MARKET CONSUMERS?

We have already sold 11 EV’s and ithasn’t even been properly launched yet. Yes, it will take some time for it to be seen on the roads. Also, we don’t want to limit our target to anything or anyone. The KIA market can be divided into 5 segments, which are: General, Asia- Pacific, Europe, North America, Brazil; and we fall under General. Basically, in the General market, we have a 3 year warranty or 1 lakh kilometers. It is supposed to be higher but because of the way we drive and the roads here in Nepal, we have reduced it to this range.

DO YOU THINK WE HAVE THE NECESSARY INFRASTRUCTURE TO SUPPORT ELECTRIC MOBILITY SYSTEM?

Yes, we have the necessary infrastructures in terms of resources but not in terms of availability. The concerned stakeholders should look at the benefits of Electric Mobility System as compared with conventional fossil fuel vehicles.

HOW DO YOU ACCESS THE AFTER SALES SERVICE PROVIDED BY KIA?

We have put our best foot forward in terms of the after sales where we frequently train our after-sales department on every new launch, and also routinely in between as well.

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