The Korean hybrid car market dominated by Japanese cars is in a spiral of the great power shift.
As patented hybrid technology of Toyota, which has been in the number one position in Korea’s hybrid vehicle market, is due to expire this year, a variety of import car brands are pioneering Korean hybrid car market with vehicles fitting their characteristics. In particular, American and German car brands, which have touted driving efficiency rather than mileage, are threatening the Japanese stronghold in the hybrid automobile industry while mounting a serious challenge to Japan’s domination of the market.
According to the import car industry on July 23, “Mercedes-Benz E300 BlueTEC hybrid,” “All-New 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid,” and “2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid” will be launched within the country in the second half of this year.
BMW and Porsche are selling hybrid cars corresponding with characteristics of each company in Korea. Their market shares of total hybrid vehicle sales are still low, but they are on the rise.
Toyota was the first brand that started selling its cars in Korean hybrid car market. This year the brand has introduced 10 hybrid models in the country.
They include 7 Lexus models and 3 Toyota models. Particularly in the case of the former, their market share of total hybrid car sales in Korea between 2010 and 2011 increased rapidly from 6.64% to 32.38%. The corresponding figure of Toyota was 38.11% last year.
As the market is growing, there are visible signs of other brands’ entry to the hybrid vehicle market. In particular, moves of US and German cars, whose focus has been on driving efficiency instead of mileage, are noticeable.
Their strategy is to broaden customer choice while releasing hybrid cars with improved mileage while having the existing image of high performance cars. “As hybrid technology is becoming more common, each brand tends to apply related technology based on its unique characteristics these days,” said a spokesman of a Ger- many’s auto importer.
First, Ford will launch All- New 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid and 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid in the second half of this year, fol- lowed by its introduction of2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid in the first half of this year.
Mercedes-Benz aims to publicize diversity and show various line-ups classified by fuels. “Whereas Toyota focuses on hybrid, we concentrate on expanding consumer choice by providing numerous products per line-up,” said an official of Mercedes-Benz in Korea. Mercedes-Benz is selling Mercedes S Class S400 Hybrid Long in Korea and planning to release Mercedes-Benz E Class E300 BlueTEC Hybrid Avantgarde in the second half of this year.
BMW exhibited hybrid cars through “BMW ActiveHybrid” models. Those models show that the company intends to make cars with “good gas mileage” and “high performance” at the same time. “To take one example, BMW 3 Series Active-Hybrid produces 340 horsepower. Considering the New 2013 BMW 3 Series 320d has 184 horsepower, this model is a high performance car,” said an official of BMW.
Porsche also launched Porsche Panamera S Hybridin 2012 after introducing Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid in 2010.
Meanwhile, hybrid vehicles accounted for 5% of Korean imported car market and Korean cars made up 2.3% of total hybrid car sales in the country last year.