Kia to Focus on Electric Cars, Leave Hybrids, Fuel Cells to Hyundai

Hyundai Motor will no longer develop and produce electronic vehicles. Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group said that Kia will focus on electric cars, while Hyundai will work on plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.

Yang Woong-chul, the group's vice president, announced the decision during a press briefing at the Frankfurt Motor Show on Thursday.

Hyundai's decision is drawing attention as most European automakers at the motor show revealed their plans to concentrate on small electric vehicles.

Under the new move, Kia will manufacture the group's first high-speed electric vehicles under the project name "TAM." These are scheduled to hit the market at the end of this year. The nation's first electric vehicle, BlueOn, developed by the group's research institute in 2010, will be also be rolled out as a Kia brand later this year.

Hyundai has a technological advantage in producing hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles as it succeeded in independently developing a 115 kW-class stack, a core component for such vehicles. It also operated two ix35 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in Denmark in May on a trial basis.

"Toyota is spearheading moves in the emerging sector for hybrid vehicles, while chemical firms are leading the market in terms of technology," said Lee Hang-koo of the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade.

"Hyundai intends to focus on hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles and plug-in hybrids, as this seems to be the direction the car market is heading in, especially after 2030."

But if new battery technology for electric vehicles advances and prices are slashed, Hyundai's strategy may backfire, he cautioned.

englishnews@chosun.com / Sep. 19, 2011 10:58 KST