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Hyundai, Kia hybrid sales hit record high

Carmaker points to decadeslong development of mechanical engineering as key to success

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : Dec. 27, 2023 - 15:40

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Hyundai Motor Company's Grandeur (left) and Kia's Carnival (Hyundai Motor Group) Hyundai Motor Company's Grandeur (left) and Kia's Carnival (Hyundai Motor Group)

Hyundai Motor Group’s two auto brands -- Hyundai Motor Company and Kia -- have set a new record by selling some 767,000 hybrid electric vehicles across the world through November this year, the South Korean auto giant said Wednesday.

According to the automakers, Hyundai Motor Company and Kia sold 254,258 HEVs in the Korean market, accounting for 21 percent of their total domestic sales during the January to November period. The two companies sold 513,000 HEVs overseas in the same timeframe. Their combined HEV sales worldwide saw an annual increase of approximately 32 percent.

The automakers said Hyundai Motor Group could retain the title of the world’s third-biggest auto manufacturer again this year, as the companies were successful in both the hybrid car market and in the all-electric vehicle market.

According to Korean automotive industry sources, the number of hybrid cars sold in the domestic market surpassed 300,000 as of November this year, up more than 40 percent from the same period last year. The size of the local hybrid vehicle market was around 62,000 units per year in 2016.

Hyundai Motor and Kia pointed to the automaker’s long development of engine systems as an important factor behind the expansion of their vehicles.

In 2011, the automakers launched the world’s first parallel hybrid system as the hybrid models of the Hyundai Sonata and the Kia K5 made their debut when global auto leaders such as Toyota and General Motors expanded their market presence with hybrid systems that combined series and parallel architectures.

Hyundai Motor Group's self-developed hybrid system (Hyundai Motor Group) Hyundai Motor Group's self-developed hybrid system (Hyundai Motor Group)

Hyundai Motor and Kia continued to work on improving the efficiency of hybrid systems after their first mass-produced models. In 2020, Hyundai Motor launched a new hybrid version of the Sante Fe, a five-door crossover sports utility vehicle that featured 180 horsepower on the back of a 1.6-liter turbo engine. The automaker also utilized advanced materials to lighten the weight of the hybrid system for better mileage.

The latest Santa Fe launched in Korea in August this year was equipped with Hyundai’s first self-developed battery for a hybrid vehicle, demonstrating the automaker’s continuous research and development efforts in enhancing its hybrid technologies.

The newest Kia Carnival, a minivan launched here last month, combined the accumulated hybrid technologies of the automakers. The hybrid model’s 1.6-liter turbo engine linked with a high-performance electric motor boasts a maximum of 245 horsepower with a fuel efficiency of up to 14 kilometers per liter. Due to its high-quality hybrid features, Kia said the hybrid model of the new Carnival accounted for about 70 percent of the new minivan’s orders.

Hyundai Motor Group is developing a next-generation hybrid system aimed for launch in 2025. It says the new system will be coupled with a high-performance engine and is expected to undergo groundbreaking improvements in fuel efficiency.

As the global shift towards pure EVs lags, the outlook for the hybrid vehicle market has come under the limelight. According to market analyst Global Fortune Business Insight, the world hybrid car market is expected to hit $272 billion this year, up 19.2 percent on year, and projected to reach $444 billion by 2030 with a compound annual growth rate of 7.3 percent.

“As we accelerate the transformation into automation from internal combustion engine vehicles, we will actively respond to the increasing need for hybrid vehicles,” said a Hyundai Motor Group official.

“We will concentrate all of the accumulated technical development capabilities to offer a better driving experience and a more varied selection of eco-friendly cars for customers.”