Electric Kona, new fuel cell SUV on the way
Hyundai knows it needs more SUVs in its lineup, and it wants more electric vehicles. To that end, the Korean automaker will expand its SUV portfolio by 2020 so that every segment is represented. That means adding a tiny A-segment crossover at one end of the spectrum and a full-size SUV larger than the Santa Fe at the other. Also in the works: an electric Kona and a new fuel cell SUV coming next year.
The plans are part necessity, part sustainability. Hyundai sales have fallen globally because it has had a car-dominant lineup in a truck-dominant market. That includes the U.S. where sales have fallen for the car nameplates and growth has been courtesy of the Tucson, Santa Fe Sport, and Santa Fe SUVs.
“Our sales plan has suffered a setback, but we will use this as an opportunity to overhaul our products,” Eui-san Chung, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Company, said following the world premiere of the all-new 2018 Kona subcompact SUV in Seoul. “It is an opportunity to review our product line and take another new leap forward.”
The E-segment large SUV will be on its own platform and will likely hit the market in mid-2019, said Wonhee Lee, president and CEO of the Hyundai Motor Company.
But the planned A-segment SUV is too small for the U.S., Lee said. The subcompact Kona will suffice as the smallest utility in the North American lineup.
The Kona will start arriving in North American dealerships in March. Global production is 200,000 units with about 80,000 slated for Europe, 60,000 for the U.S., and much of the rest for Korea where it goes on sale with preorders starting now, said Jung Kook Bae, vice president of the International Sales Division for Hyundai Motor Company.
It’s made in Korea, but if demand warrants production in other regions, Lee said that could be added. He said Korean plants are flexible enough that plants making the Elantra, for example, could scale back car production to add the new SUV.
Another product in the works is the Santa Cruz pickup, which shares the Tucson platform and will likely go on sale in 2020, Lee said.
Hyundai is also focusing on clean mobility and connectivity. By 2020 Hyundai plans to have more than 14 green cars including hybrids, plugin hybrids, and EVs, Chung said. The Hyundai group has pledged to have 28 new electrified vehicles on the market by 2020 across the Hyundai, Kia, and Genesis brands.
A battery electric vehicle and a fuel cell electric vehicle are both coming next year.
The electric vehicle is the Kona, which will be mass produced for domestic sale in Korea only. Officials will not confirm its future sale in other markets, but there is no reason to believe it won’t make its way to the North America eventually. It will have a range of 242 miles (389 km) or more, which will make it a more popular choice than the Hyundai Ioniq EV which only has a range of 124 miles (200 km). Lee said it is not possible to create a longer-range Ioniq.
Hyundai will also produce a fuel cell SUV in the first half of 2018, and they will be on the road in Seoul when the city hosts next year’s Winter Olympics. Hyundai has had a Tucson fuel cell vehicle since 2013, but the next FCV will be an all-new SUV with a new name and riding on a new platform, Lee said.
On other topics, Chung said Hyundai will continue to consider partnerships with other global automakers and players in the industry, especially in smaller segments such as sports cars, but there is no interest in buying other carmakers. “We have no desire to acquire other brands at this time.” The focus is on partnerships like the ones with tech and ride-sharing companies including Cisco, Baidu, and Uber, which is a partnership that will continue to grow, he said.