The Korea Herald


Hyundai, Kia likely to outpace Toyota in Q1 earnings for 1st time

Kia vows to boost China sales by launching new EV every year until 2030

By Byun Hye-jin

Published : April 26, 2023 - 18:21

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Kia Motor's large-sized electric sport utility vehicle the New Kia EV9 (Kia Motor) Kia Motor's large-sized electric sport utility vehicle the New Kia EV9 (Kia Motor)

Hyundai Motor Group is highly likely to outpace Toyota in first quarter earnings this year for the first time, according to industry estimates on Wednesday.

The South Korean auto giant’s Hyundai and Kia brands posted a combined 6.5 trillion won ($4.8 billion) in operating profits in the first three months of this year.

It is a record figure for the carmaker, exceeding the estimated 5.98 trillion won of operating profits of its archrival Toyota, the world’s No. 1 carmaker in terms of sales.

Last year, Hyundai Motor Group sold 8.48 million cars, becoming the third-largest carmaker globally after Toyota and Volkswagen. Toyota sold 104.8 million vehicles during the same period.

The upbeat outlook comes after Hyundai and Kia posted record earnings in their first-quarter earnings reports this week.

On Tuesday, Hyundai said it posted record operating profits of 3.6 trillion won in the first quarter, an 86.3 percent jump from a year ago. It sold over 1 million vehicles, up 13.2 percent on-year. Sales also increased 24.7 percent to 37.8 trillion won, mostly driven by a surge in sales of sport utility vehicles, including Tucson and Santa Fe, as well as from its premium brand Genesis.

Its smaller affiliate Kia also saw operating profits skyrocket by 78.9 percent to 2.87 trillion won compared to a year earlier. It sold 768,251 units, a 12 percent jump. In Korea, the carmaker saw a 16.5 percent increase in sales to 141,749 units. It sold 626,511 units in global markets, up 11.1 percent from a year earlier.

Kia’s stellar performance came after surge in sales of highly profitable larger SUVs, including the Carnival, Sportage and Sorrento, as well as a recovery in chip supplies.

“The Korean, US and Indian markets saw 5.6 percent growth in the first quarter, leading to an increase in Kia’s global market share to 4 percent,” said Lee Hae-in, team leader of investor relations at Kia Motors, during a conference call.

Clean car sales including EVs and hybrid EVs spiked 21.1 percent to 133,000 units in the first three months this year, driven by new car launches including the Sportage Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid.

The three key EV markets have seen growth in market shares -- 32 percent in Korea, 36 percent in Western Europe and 14 percent in the US.

This year, Kia aims to sell up to 250,000 units, a 57 percent increase from a year earlier, to take up 8 percent in the global EV market share, with upcoming EV lineups the EV6, Niro EV and EV9.

When asked about the impact of the US' Inflation Reduction Act, Joo Woo-jeong, vice president at Kia Motor, said that although the EV6 and Niro EV are not eligible to receive tax credits in the US, Kia’s EV lineups have not lost their competitive edge because many rival models were also taken off the subsidy list.

General Motors’ Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Lexus UX Electric did not make the US tax credit list that was announced on April 18.

“But before we complete construction of building an EV manufacturing plant in the US (by 2026,) the company plans to expand lease sales. But if it doesn’t work, a further incentive policy (of cutting car prices) will be made available for customers,” said Joo.

Starting from Mexico and China, Kia plans to ramp up its electrification strategy by transforming existing car production facilities into EV plants as well. It hinted its Mexican plant will be an EV manufacturing base for North America.

The carmaker underscored the strategic importance of the Chinese EV market. A new EV model will be produced every year by 2030, with the EV5 set for launch in China late this year. It plans to make EV cars take up more than 20 percent of its total Chinese lineups by 2025.