Lee Won-hee, president of Hyundai Motor, has recently expressed his aspiration to elevate the automaker to third place in the global electric vehicle (EV) market.
Lee said at an "Investor Day" event held at the end of February that Hyundai Motor would ramp up its electric car models to 44 by 2025, industry sources said on March 19. He also disclosed a plan to prepare an EV platform next year.
Lee’s remarks led some analysts to speculate that Hyundai's future car strategy, which is focused on hydrogen-powered vehicles, might be changed to the promotion of both electric cars and hydrogen electric vehicles.
Lee did not disclose whether the electric cars he referred to included hydrogen electric cars. He also stopped short of identifying the two car makers that would stay ahead of it in the market. Toyota is the competitor that Hyundai is trailing closely. Volkswagen has already built a modular car platform for electric cars, which is the core of an electric car strategy, and plans to invest 24.3 trillion won (19 billion euros) in EVs by 2023. So it will be difficult for Hyundai Motor to catch up with Volkswagen in the near future.
Hyundai plans to diversify its models through an EV platform in 2020 to strengthen its electric vehicle business. Starting with the Kona this year, the carmaker is aiming to launch the sporty sedan “Lafesta” and the compact SUV “Encino” next year and the “Porter” in 2020 in China.
Hyundai Motor has decided to popularize EVs that can run longer, as short mileage is a major weakness of EVs. It also plans to focus on the development of entry-level EV models targeting emerging markets, while at the same time seeking to boost its brand by properly responding to the North American market. Beginning next year, it will launch an EV taxi model loaded with an electric power train for long-distance drives. The EV taxi model will be introduced in the Korean market first and then will be promoted in China and Southeast Asia.
Some experts are concerned about Hyundai's strategy to focus on EVs and hydrogen-powered EVs. They say that Hyundai Motor’s concentration on EVs will affect its business performances as vehicles powered by internal combustion engines will dominate the car market for more than 10 years.
In addition, Hyundai's reputation in the automobile industry is falling as the inefficient supply of battery packs halved production of the Kona Electric in four months. Furthermore, some experts predicted conflicts between the labor and management at Hyundai Motor would intensify as the expansion of the electric car business would result in a 20 percent reduction in workforce.