By on April 4, 2016


“It’s a headache,” said the Hyundai vice president in charge of eco-friendly vehicles of his company’s efforts to chase Toyota and others in building green vehicles, Automotive News has reported.

Speaking at a South Korean electric car expo, Lee Ki-Sang, senior VP of Hyundai’s Eco Technology Center, went on to state that 26 hybrid, plug-in, full-electric, and fuel cell models will arrive by 2020, but added that Hyundai and Kia’s relatively small home market of Korea will make these moves risky and “difficult.”

One would think that the executive charged with building and selling an innovative line of vehicles would discuss the development of said vehicles with more than a simple yawn.

Considering that current historically-low fuel prices are leading to higher sales of trucks, especially in the U.S. market, Lee is likely right to be concerned about his company’s investment in green technologies.

Existing electrified vehicles account for about one percent of the company’s sales, and the take-up rate for EVs and plug-ins isn’t close to what Hyundai and other automakers had hoped. Lee even called the demand for EVs “miserable.”

Despite this, Hyundai and Kia aim to become the world’s second largest eco-car manufacturer by the end of the decade, meaning quick development of new technologies is in order.

[Image: Hyundai Motor America]

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25 Comments on “Hyundai Green Chief Says ‘Meh’ to Hybrids and Electrics, Dives in Anyway...”

  • avatar

    In my experience, Koreans tend to be blunt when speaking English. Their tact and subtlety comes not from their words, but body language.

    • 0 avatar

      But what really matters are their actions. If automakers feel compelled to offer EVs, PEVs, and Hybrids on the market, that should be countered at an equal number of gasoline-powered vehicles for those not enamored with EVs.

      And herein lies the problem, formerly known as the guns vs butter theory. Make too many EVs, lose out on ICE sales. Make too many ICE vehicles, and get branded by the US government for not being green enough, and taxed into financial ruin.

      • 0 avatar

        Well my point was how this article focuses on his rather lackluster response to the EV question for H/K. :)

        • 0 avatar

          Understood. But when you get right down to it, can you blame him?

          EVs are such an insignificantly small niche of the overall new-car market that this guy must have visions of dollars and won flushing down the H/K toilet by the dumptruck full.

          • 0 avatar

            The chaebol companies are so massive, they can easily afford it. He shouldn’t worry about those losses. As he understands, chasing the other big proffers of hybrid cars in the US is non-negotiable.

          • 0 avatar

            I would not be in favor of losing money, in any project, venture or automotive diversification effort. I suspect his bosses and shareholders also are not in favor of wasting money.

            Complying with, and appeasing the US EPA, CAFE mandates, and all that entails, now that would be a business decision, and should be countered with an equal and opposite offering, like ICE vehicles.

          • 0 avatar

            Sounds like you should write them a letter. Sometimes you have to offer a product as a “compliance” or to remain competitive. That’s what it sounds like they’re doing.

            Often times, it’s a money loser. Happens in insurance a lot. We have to offer a crap product in a certain state for compliance. Already know we’re going to lose money in that area, and won’t sell any (or what we will sell will be bad business).

            It’s how the game works.

          • 0 avatar

            Yet this dude is in charge of eco-friendly vehicles. An odd position to take don’t you think?

            It’s like being a pastor and saying you don’t believe in God.

            They need to find someone else.

          • 0 avatar

            CoreyDL, I’m sure they’ll figure it out by themselves. There have been several automakers over the decades that marketed “loss leaders.”

            But as far as finding someone else, as JPWhite suggested, that may be a little more difficult.

            In some organizations, members of the management team are appointed by the head honcho to oversee a project, a venture or a diversification/expansion, like this Green project.

            Maybe the head honcho handed this guy a Mission Impossible task.

            It’s hard to get fired up about a forecast if you know before you start that the odds are against you.

          • 0 avatar

            And don’t forget, nepotism! He might be related to Hyundai’s ownership family, and it doesn’t matter what sort of job he does at this because he’s their son-in-law.

  • avatar

    Risky and difficult.

    Hmmm. Maybe if this dude wants an easier job he should apply to be a greeter at Walmart and let someone with gumption take his place.

    Musk is no stranger to risky and difficult. Why should it be easier for Kia?

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe he’s just trying to set low expectations for sales.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      He almost sounds like Sergio Marchionne.

      Well, I currently own an Optima Hybrid, and the Kia Niro hybrid is on my radar as well as its cousin the Hyundai Ioniq. So I would be one of his future customers.

      But I’ve put money down on a Model 3, whose demand is through the roof. Mr Lee Ki-Sang should take note of that intense interest. He probably made his comments prior to the Tesla reveal event.

      • 0 avatar

        He has something in common with Sergio. The vast majority of their revenue comes from conventional ICE.

        Companies want to delay EV/hybrid as long as possible to ride fossil to the bitter end until they have no other choice.

        Korea would be imminently positioned to lead the world in EV being leaders in electronics, chemicals, batteries and automotive.

        Dont compare to Elon Musk. He’s a revolutionary with no ties to fossil fuel. He has no existing billion dollar revenue stream to protect.

        • 0 avatar

          In 1930, Samuel Vauclain, chairman of Baldwin locomotive, stated in a speech that advances in technology would ensure the dominance of steam locomotives until 1980.

          The danger in being late to the EV party is that the early players will lock up resources. Especially the contracts with the Nevada lithium mines. The real estate for a charging network is another.

      • 0 avatar

        Agreed. I have more respect for Marchionne. At least Marchionne is very direct about being against EV’s asking potential customers to not buy his 500e.

        Ki-Sang is just plain wishy washy.

  • avatar

    Ironically, you’d think that a country like Korea would be all over EV cars as..

    small (smaller than indiana), densely populated country with lots of nuke power that imports 100% of its oil.

    go figure….though there probably is an obvious logical reason that eludes me.

    • 0 avatar

      And that reason is excellent public transport, and a rejection by anyone with money of small cars.

      • 0 avatar

        Anyone know Korean government’s shakedown approach to automobiles? Is it a fee/fine/tax by displacement, emissions, or consumption? Combo of all three perhaps? And is the rent levied on the peasants directly or via some CAFE-type contraption on the guilds?

        • 0 avatar

          I know as far as taxation goes, it costs quite a lot to get a non-Korean car there because of their import tariffs. Registration on my old car was nothing shocking, maybe $125 for the year on a 12 year old Daewoo Lanos, which was in decent shape and cost me $1,100 at a dealer with IIRC 70-80,000 kilometers.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Considering that current historically-low fuel prices are leading to higher sales of trucks, especially in the U.S. market”

    Not true.

    Truck sales as a fraction of the total US market have not changed:

    2010: 14.5%
    2011: 14.2%
    2012: 13.4%
    2013: 13.9%
    2014: 14.0%
    2015: 14.1%

  • avatar

    Hyundai simply doesn’t like vehicles with plugs, they follow the temple of GDI and Hydrogen Fuel Cells.

    Kia likes lithium and they vehicles with plugs, so there were Kia Forte LPI hybids, Kia Ray EVs, Kia Soul EVs, Chademo etc.

    Its kinda like the Toyota/Nissan divergence of opinion, EV or Hydrogen, except Hyundai owns 33.8% of Kia (down from about 70%)

    Expect lots of Hyundai money spent on subconsciously sabotaged EVs, whereas Kia actually sells their EVs

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    When Tesla sells 500,000 Model 3’s THAT will be a headache. Hyundai has been the hottest rising star around for a generation, devastating Saturn and going from a Pony joke to slashing and cutting their way to the top with awesome devastation. Lee-Ki-Sang better be sent to research the market in North Korea because he sounds tired.

  • avatar

    Automakers are in business to make money for shareholders by profitably selling vehicles that customers want to buy. In contrast, the regular Prius is probably the only hybrid/electric car on the market that might currently be making a profit – including paying back development costs. Most hybrids/electrics are big money losers that manufacturers/governments need to pay customers to take off their hands – do you think Ford is happy to offer almost free Focus EVs to Californians? The fact is most car buyers don’t think hybrids/electrics offer good value, especially when oil prices are low. The interesting thing is that the number 1 trade-in for almost all electric cars is a Prius – which means all the subsidies and lost profits are going to people that already have a green car so that they can have a very slightly greener one.

    • 0 avatar

      “The interesting thing is that the number 1 trade-in for almost all electric cars is a Prius – which means all the subsidies and lost profits are going to people that already have a green car so that they can have a very slightly greener one.”

      Wait…so you think all cars are crushed immediately on trade-in?

      Of course not. The Prius is sold to someone else. And it’s almost certainly greener and more efficient than whatever they would have bought instead. The benefit is still there.

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