Korean carmakers plan to roll out new K5, Sonata hybrids
Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors have yet to clarify their stance on whether to develop Genesis or K9 hybrid vehicles, though global carmakers are in heated competition to launch eco-friendly models of large-sized sedans.
The players manufacturing hybrids for the luxury and premium-luxury segments include BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus.
Spokespeople for Hyundai Motor Group declined to comment on the possibility that Hyundai-Kia would follow suit. They only confirmed that “upgraded models for the Sonata and K5 hybrids will be launched later this year.”
A spokesman said the automotive group’s “current position is not to make public” whether it is considering developing hybrid models of upper segment sedans such as the K9, K7, Equus, Genesis and Grandeur.
Further, a spokesman downplayed the global automakers’ unveiling of a series of luxury models such as the Mercedes-Benz S400 hybrid, BMW Active hybrid 7, Audi A8 hybrid and Lexus LS600hL in the European market.
“As far as we’re concerned, consumer demand for the large-sized hybrids is weak,” he said. “A key issue is the strong demand and subsidies from policymakers.”
Stressing that consumer prices will be extremely high for the luxury hybrids unless there are subsidies from the government, he added, “As we have our own technologies for hybrids, it will not take a long time to develop the upper segment when other issues are resolved.”
Hyundai Motor plans to release upgraded hybrid models of the mid-sized Sonata and K5 with higher fuel-efficiency by the end of 2012, he said.
While the two hybrid models are being sold in Korea and the United States, “the K5 will make its European market debut during the latter half of this year,” a Kia spokesman said.
The Kia spokesman also declined to comment on the group’s internal stance on upper segment models.
Some auto dealers claim the environmentally friendly model is more suitable for large-sized sedans than small- and mid-sized ones. They cite Lexus, the luxury brand of Toyota Motor, which is pouring huge investment into the development of hybrids.
Audi, which had prioritized producing electric-powered vehicles, recently joined the luxury hybrid competition.
Hybrid cars of Hyundai and Kia have yet to gain popularity among domestic consumers.
The affiliated automakers saw lethargic sales of the fuel-efficient vehicles, such as the Sonata hybrid and K5 hybrid, last year.
Yearly sales of Hyundai’s Sonata hybrid and Kia’s K5 hybrid stood at 7,193 and 5,279 units, respectively.
The figures indicate that the companies’ daily sales of the two eco-friendly sedans in Korea averaged 19.7 and 14.4 units in 2011.
Though Hyundai-Kia promoted the fuel-efficient cars throughout the year, the sales were merely 10 percent of the sales of gasoline-fueled versions of the same models.
As their hybrid sales remained lackluster this year, with consumers thought to be taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the cars, Hyundai and Kia recently launched cheaper models.
Automobile dealers point out that Toyota outpaces Hyundai-Kia in fuel-efficiency technologies, and the Toyota New Prius is now almost the same price as the Sonata and K5.
“Ultimately, the key factor to dominate the fuel-efficient vehicle market is the actual mileage per liter drivers feel,” a dealer in the import car industry said.
He said there could be a huge gap between the actual and nominal mileage figures.