Update: ‘Blockbuster sales’ section updated.
Kia has substantially expanded its partially electrified vehicle portfolio since the launch of the Niro in 2016. Almost every global Kia SUV is available with a mild-hybrid, full-hybrid, and/or plug-in hybrid system. As for a Kia Telluride Hybrid, such a model is highly unlikely to be launched anytime before 2025.
Kia scored a home run with the Telluride in the U.S. In 2019, the year it launched the model, it sold 58,604 units. The Telluride was the sixth-highest-selling Kia in the country that year. In 2020, the first full year of sales for the model, the Telluride was the third best-selling Kia, with 75,129 units delivered. In 2021, with 93,705 units sold, the Telluride retained its third rank internally.
Even in 2022, the Telluride was Kia’s third-best-selling model in the U.S. The company delivered 99,891 units of the mid-size SUV in the country that year, 7% more than in 2021. Between January and July 2023, Kia sold 65,043 units of the Telluride. Compared to the same period in 2022 (55,211 units), that marked a growth of 18%, or 9,832 units to be more specific.
Kia Telluride Hybrid in the next generation
The Kia Telluride has proved its mettle and worth despite the odds the auto industry has faced in 2020 and 2021. The next step ideally would be to expand its powertrain selection and make it available in a hybrid and/or plug-in hybrid variant. The Hyundai Palisade is rumored to get hybrid versions in its second generation, and it is highly likely that the Kia Telluride, which is its mechanical cousin, will follow suit.
According to a report ET News published on May 29, 2023, the Palisade Hybrid will have a 2.5-liter gas engine-based powertrain and is scheduled to be released in South Korea in early 2025. It’s not hard to imagine a Kia Telluride Hybrid with the same system coming out later that year.
Currently, the Kia Telluride is only available with the Lambda II 3.8-liter naturally aspirated direct-injection V6 engine that develops 291 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 262 lb.-ft. of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard and an all-wheel drive system is available optionally. The gas-powered model is easy to drive and offers decent performance, although handling is an area of improvement for the team developing the next-gen Telluride.
The Telluride clearly needs to improve on fuel efficiency, and hybrid technology can help it overcome this limitation. It currently delivers a combined fuel economy (EPA-est.) of 23 MPG (FWD)/21 MPG (AWD). Another downside of the three-row mid-size SUV is that it’s a bit noisy. Hybrid technology will help in this area as well.
EV9: The fully-electrified alternative to Kia Telluride Hybrid prospects
Kia’s immediate focus is on its flagship EV – the Kia EV9. Kia plans to start selling the three-row SUV in the U.S. in Q4 2023. The E-GMP-based electric SUV belongs to the same segment as the Telluride and offers better performance and oodles of space, comfort, and convenience. Although it may be USD 10-15k more expensive than a Telluride Hybrid, it is likely to be cheaper to drive, maintain, and provide significant savings over its lifetime.
Kia aims to convert over 80% sales in North America to EVs, President and CEO Ho Sung Song said during the company’s 2022 CEO Investor Day event on March 3, 2022. Future Kia EVs in the U.S., including the EV9, could be locally manufactured models. On April 5, 2023, Kia said it expects to build the EV9 in West Point, (Georgia), USA, from 2024.
The Telluride presents a formidable option for families in search of a unique mid-size three-row SUV, deviating from the conventional American and Japanese vehicles that have dominated the market for years. Its interior impresses with its superior quality, comfort, technology, and generous space. However, the disappointing fuel economy subtracts from its appeal as a daily driver, leading to higher operating costs. Electrification through a hybrid or plug-in hybrid system could address this concern, Kia may have a plan to pursue at least one of those options for the Telluride in the future.
Featured Image Source: Kia