The Kia Soul EV won the 2015 Canadian Green Car Award on Friday, capping off its second of two major green car awards last week, the other being the inaugural Automobile Journalists Association of Canada Green Car of the Year award. The Soul EV also participated in AJAC’s EcoRun, a high-profile green car demonstration event that has no vehicle winner – though the journalist that scores the lowest overall fuel consumption rate does win a coveted “green jersey” – which took place over three days last week as well.
In short, it should have been a banner week for Kia Canada’s all-electric compact electric vehicle, and Kia Canada’s reputation for producing and selling environmentally clean and appealing products.
Instead, an online firestorm exploded amongst the EV community when a potential Soul EV buyer posted two emailed responses from different Kia of Vancouver employees that said the Soul EV offered little to no environmental or cost savings benefits. The dealership stated it doesn’t sell the Soul EV – which is only available at 11 Kia dealers across the country (with two in BC) – yet strangely enough the all-electric boxy hatchback is listed prominently on its home page, suggesting it may not have carried the Soul EV then, but either does now, or will at some point.
Regardless, the information appeared first in the comments section of a separate Soul EV story on insideevs.com, in which an inquiry about the car to the dealer generated this initial response:
Thank you for your interest in the Soul EV.
Are you interested because you think an EV will save you money, or because you believe it will be good for the environment? Because realistically, it will do neither. The Carbon footprint of making the electric battery is equivalent to driving the gas powered luxury Soul for 5 years, and the extra 8-10000 $ you will pay for an EV, would pay for gas in a 2.0 l GDI four cylinder for 7 years.
So again, whatever your buying motivation, savings or environment, at this point in time, the EV is a social / political statement and is good neither for your pocketbook, nor the environment.
Internet Sales Manager
Kia of Vancouver
After the e-mailer complained in a follow-up email to the manager, a second note came in the form of an apology for the “tone” of the letter, but also arguing against the environmental and potential cost savings of the Soul EV. The full text of that letter is below:
Hi, my name is Jason and I am one of the Sales Managers here at Kia Vancouver. That email your friend received is not a good sounding tone.
I do apologize to your friend that such an email was sent in the first place. If you could pass this on, that would be great.
There is some truth to the email though. A top of the line Kia Soul SX-L (gasoline powered) is about $30000, where as an EV soul will run north of $40000. However, the government just released an EV incentive as of today so it may help lower the cost to consumers to get into EV powered vehicles.
It is debatable how “environmental friendly” EV cars really are. Nickel is mined by big diesel powered machinery to gather materials to build batteries. Cars are shipped around the world using big ships running on fossil fuels. However, there is no point getting into this as it boils down to perspective with strong points on both ends.
The one thing I do like to ask potential EV customers myself is whether they believe that driving an EV will save them money in the long term. This is not true right now because the cost of an EV car compared to its gasoline counterpart is so much more expensive at the point of sale. Taking the Soul for example, a $10000 price difference does indeed buy you a lot of gas (e.g., $2000 per year on gas will get you 5 years of driving). Then we can take into consideration that gasoline cars are known and likely more reliable, regardless of the brand.
However, when it boils down to buying a car. It should only be the buyer’s views that matter. We as sales people are only here to guide and give information. Unfortunately, the tone of my salesman was very very poor. The exact same thing could have been said in a much more appropriate manner with less of a tone of “you shouldn’t buy an EV because blah blah blah blah”.
Lastly, we do not carry EV souls. Only two dealers in BC have the privilege of selling them. If you have any more general questions for me George, you may email or call me anytime. Send my apologies to your friend as well.
Pre-Owned & Internet Sales Manager
After the comments generated enough of a firestorm to warrant its own Inside EVs piece, stories based on the above letters and resultant reader outrage are still popping up on various automotive sites this week, including on Green Car Reports, prompting some unfortunate insinuations about low Canadian interest in the environment, and the viability of franchised dealerships that depend on gas and diesel vehicle sales and service trying to sell electric vehicles.
But the latent issue underlying all of this dealer and reader angst is something that’s much less visible: the limited production and therefore supply of such electric vehicles. The bulging trophy case for the Kia Soul EV suggests that it has a seriously appealing vehicle, while up until now, it has only been available in California, as well as those 11 Canadian dealers who each have received very little supply. As such, those 11 dealers have months-long waiting lists for them, while other Kia dealers in Canada can’t receive even a single unit and therefore actively try to dissuade buyers from purchasing a vehicle that they don’t have available.
It’s for dealers such as this that the Canadian EV Dealer Awards were created, to help highlight the fact that there are certainly dealers in Canada supportive of such vehicles.
The Soul EV was chosen the overall Canadian Green Car Award winner among five other vehicles that had won top vehicle in their respective categories. So while the Soul EV beat out the mighty but pricey Tesla Model S in the Zero Emissions category, the Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid won in Plug-in Hybrid (the new Volt was not yet available to test drive), and the Volkswagen Golf TDI won for Efficient gas or diesel model. The Efficient Three-Row category went to the Kia Rondo, while the new Green Fun Car segment win went to the Mini Cooper S.
Kia says they underestimated demand for the Soul EV, and will work hard to fix it. There will be many Kia dealers, and buyers, watching closely to see if this award-winning vehicle indeed becomes more widely available soon.