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Automakers compete with fuel efficient carsBy Kim Yon-se
Published : Jan. 29, 2012 - 19:36
Competition to launch vehicles with high fuel efficiency has been heated in the local automobile market.
Among the contenders are Korean carmakers, such as Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors, and major import brands including BMW, Mini, Volkswagen, Nissan and Chrysler.
Noticeably, fuel efficient diesel-powered sedans as well as diesel-powered sport utility vehicles are gaining popularity with Korean consumers.
Drivers’ priorities are shifting amid skyrocketing oil prices and lower fuel efficiency of gasoline-powered cars.
“There is no doubt that fuel efficiency has been one of the most important considerations of Korean drivers,” a Hyundai Motor spokesman said.
The diesel model of Hyundai Motors’ i40 sedan is drawing growing interest among car consumers, as it is capable of 18 kilometers per liter.
The European-style midsize sedan, which was introduced in the local market earlier this month, has already posted outstanding sales in European markets including Germany.
In case of Kia Motors, its hybrid-version of the K5, or Optima in the U.S., was registered in the Guinness Book of Records by recently posting about 27.5 kilometers per liter in fuel efficiency.
Starting Aug. 26, the automaker carried out a challenge driving of the sedan for 12,710 kilometers for 16 days across 48 states.
Ssangyong Motor’s Korando Sports, equipped with a 2.0-liter e-XDi200 diesel engine, has a high fuel efficiency of 15.6 kilometers per liter and six-speed automatic transmission.
BMW Group launched the first diesel version of the MINI to the local market early this month. The German automotive group is poised to introduce two diesel models for the new BMW 3 Series.
Though a sub-compact, Volkswagen’s newly released Jetta Diesel is also a spacious option for those looking for fuel efficiency.
The Jetta 1.6 TDI BlueMotion, a sedan version of the Golf, its earlier model, is equipped with an engine that automatically shuts down when the car is idle and restarts as soon as the accelerator is pushed.
The five-seater can run at 22.2 kilometers per liter without help from electric motors. Its high efficiency comes solely from Volkswagen’s BlueMotion diesel engine.
Chrysler unveiled the diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland and 300 C luxury sedan models.
Nissan is moving to introduce its first diesel model, the Infiniti FXd, to Korea for the first time in Asian markets.
Ford Motor Korea plans to import the All-New Ford Focus equipped with diesel engines later this year.
Further, the world’s first diesel-electric hybrid vehicle, developed by Peugeot and currently on sale in Europe, will likely be imported into the Korean market in 2012.
Hanbul Motors Corp., the official importer and distributor for France-based PSA Peugeot-Citroen, plans to launch the diesel-electric hybrid version of its 3008 crossover hatchback, the Peugeot 3008 HYbrid4.
According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, 35.2 percent import vehicles sold in the Korean market last year was a diesel-powered car.
That figure is a rise from 25.4 percent a year earlier.
The number of imported diesel car registrations reached 36,931 units in 2011, up 60.5 percent from 23,006 units in 2010.
Sales of imported gasoline vehicles in the Korean market contracted from 65,269 units in 2010 to 64,181 units in 2011.
According an oil price information website provided by the Korea National Oil Corporation, gasoline pump prices nationwide recorded 1,964.31 won ($1.74) per liter as of Jan. 19.
It was the highest price since Jan. 5 when the prices marked 1,933.30 won per liter.
Oil prices have remained strong this year as international crude oil prices skyrocketed upon heightened tensions over a possible military confrontation in the Middle East amid expansion of sanctions against Iran.
International crude oil prices are projected to sharply increase should there be military conflicts between Iran and the U.S., which calls for international cooperation in imposing sanctions against Iran.
Average gasoline pump prices at gas stations nationwide posted a record-high 1,929.26 won per liter in 2011, up 12.8 percent from the previous year’s 1710.41 won per liter.
By Kim Yon-se (email@example.com)
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