Kia is holding a pattern of growth in spite of Europe’s overall decline in vehicle sales, with the brand’s European vehicle registrations rising by 1.6% in the first half of 2019 to 268,305 units against the market’s drop by 3.1%, Automotive News Europe reports.

New electrified models are set to join the Kia model line-up, with plug-in hybrid versions of the XCeed coupe SUV, Ceed hatchback and Ceed Sportswagon estate set to commence production in late November at the automaker’s production facility in Zilina, Slovakia, chief operating officer of Kia Europe Emilio Herrera told Automotive News Europe.

Each variant of the Ceed ‘will get some form of electrification’, with a pure EV also being considered, Herrera said, adding that the new Sorento will have the current diesel engine alongside hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions.The Imagine concept which the company displayed at this year’s Geneva Motor Show will also form the basis for a battery-electric vehicle that is set to launch in 2021, he added.

“Without BEVs and plug-in hybrids it would be almost impossible to (meet) the (2021 EU CO2) emissions targets. We have to secure as many EVs for Europe as possible to be able to increase our overall sales in Europe or at least to maintain the volume. Otherwise, we will have to reduce the volume like some other brands, but this is something we don’t want to do; we don’t want to pay fines, either,” Herrera said.

This task gets more complicated every day thanks to the rise in SUV sales and the decline of diesel take-up, he added. On electrification, mild hybrid versions may also be introduced to the whole range if the company sees the need to further lower CO2 emissions across the board, Herrera said.

“We have some flexibility at the Zilina plant. If we don’t do it immediately, it is because of the cost effect as even adding a mild hybrid has a repercussion on the final price of the vehicle. We are putting a lot of technology in the car,” the COO explained. The mild hybrid powertrains won’t be offered on other models next year, though it and other forms of electrification could be introduced ‘as soon as we change the models.’

Is the slight reduction in CO2 emissions from mild hybrid electrification worth the extra cost that will be passed on the the end user? “The target is so stringent, that every little bit counts. Mild hybrids will help, the type of tyres we use will help. We even have contingency plans for next year when the CO2 rules start to go into effect to make sure we don’t miss the target,” Herrera said.

These contingency plans could include using all-electric cars for the company’s fleet, dealer demo vehicle fleet and its car-sharing enterprise fleet, along with introducing the aforementioned low-emissions(-friendly) tyres on every vehicle, he added.

The firm’s two BEVs, the e-Soul and the Niro EV are selling so well that there isn’t enough supply, Herrera said, adding that all of this year’s allocation have sold out and units from next year’s production are already being sold.

Battery supply remains insufficient for the demand, though this isn’t expected to affect the company’s forthcoming PHEVs as it has renegotiated contracts with its battery suppliers for these models. At present, all of Kia’s electrified powertrain batteries come from Korea, with Herrera noting that the company did not anticipate the current demand for its BEVs, and consequently did not source enough from suppliers LG Chem and SK Innovation.

Kia’s electric drive motors are manufactured in-house at its Zilina, Slovakia plant; electrified vehicles will account for 15% of total sales, or about 75,000 from 500,000 units, Herrera told Automotive News Europe. Fully electric vehicle volume is expected to comprise of 12,000 Niro EVs and 4,000 e-Soul EVs.

Kia continues to aim for the sale of 40,000 EVs in order to meet the EU’s CO2 emissions target, Herrera said. “Luckily the production of batteries will start to rise in the second half of this year, helping us produce and sell the necessary number of cars in 2020,” he added. With the aim of having a pure EV version of every model, this will include the A-segment Picanto, and though it is ‘a big challenge’, it will have to be done sooner or later, he said.