Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. are shifting the focus of their eco-friendly car marketing strategy from hybrid cars to electrified vehicles including electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs). Electrified vehicles accounted for a mere 0.5 percent of green car sales in 2014 but are expected to grow to 40 percent this year. Hyundai Motor Group looks to reach third place in global electrified car sales by 2025.
The five automakers in Korea sold a total of 296,680 eco-friendly cars at home and abroad until October this year, the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA) said on Dec. 9. Hyundai and Kia accounted for 98.2 percent of the total.
Hybrid cars sold by Hyundai and Kia accounted for the lion’s share, 59.2 percent (172,506 units), followed by EVs with 27.6 percent (80,306), PHEVs with 11.9 percent (34,582 units), and FCEVs with 1.3 percent (3,843 units). Current sales trends project that the portion of hybrid cars will drop below 60 percent by the end of the year.
If it falls below 60 percent, it will be the first time since 2009 when Hyundai and Kia began to sell Avante and Forte hybrid models. Until 2010, hybrid cars were the only eco-friendly model made by the Korean car industry.
New models had been launched every year since the launch of the BlueOn, the first EV of Hyundai in 2011. They include Kia's Ray EV and Renault Samsung's SM3 Z.E. released in 2012 and GM Korea’s Chevrolet Spark EV which went on sale in Korea in 2013. But the Korean EV market did not grow.
Hyundai expanded its eco-friendly vehicle lineup such as introducing the Tucson ix FCEV in 2013, but by 2014, hybrid cars accounted for more than 95 percent of all eco-friendly car sales in Korea.
Currently, EVs are the fastest growing eco-friendly vehicle in Korea. This is because an Ionic electric model was introduced in 2016, followed by small electric SUVs such as the Niro EV and the Kona Electric in 2017.
Small electric SUV models are taking the growth of EVs while gaining popularity in Europe among others.
EVs sold by Hyundai and Kia grew 119.2 percent from 21,986 units in Korea last year and 125.4 percent to 39,981 units overseas. This year, sales swelled only 25.2 percent to 21,307 units in Korea but 127.1 percent to 59,999 units overseas.
FCEV sales are on a sharp rise in the Korean market thanks to the government's support policies for eco-friendly cars.
The Tucson ix FCEV sold a total of 916 units for six years before last year's discontinuance but 949 units of the Nexo released last year were sold in the first year of 2018 alone and 3,843 units (3,207 units at home and 636 units abroad) of the Nexo were sold from January through October of this year.
Lee Won-hee, CEO of Hyundai Motor, recently announced a plan to rise to the third spot in the world motorization sector represented by electric cars and FCEVs by investing 61 trillion won in R&D and future automobiles for six years until 2025 on CEO Investor Day.