The Japanese may be the pioneers in making hybrid cars but Korean auto major Hyundai Motor Corporation is planning to go full steam on developing its own hybrid technology. The company will start off first with hybrid variants of Accent, Sonata and Avante sedans and its research and development headquarter in India may soon be given the go ahead to develop similar technologies for smaller cars.
"We have been slow in the field so far but have aggressive plans given the fact that high oil prices have made hybrids almost a necessity now. From next year, we will sell hybrid cars in Korea and by 2010 we will be selling them all over the world," said Seok San Jang, a senior vice president for Hyundai's international business operations. "India is our hub for small cars and hybrids for smaller cars will also eventually come from there."
Recently Japanese Honda Motors introduced a hybrid variant of its Civic model in India — the country's its first hybrid car.
India is not only a priority market for the Hyundai, but also an export hub for its small cars. In India, the company brought a second plant on stream last year, as part of an effort to ramp up production to 600,000 units annually. Through this fiscal year, the company aims to produce 520,000 cars, of which 318,000 will be sold in the domestic market and the rest will be exported.
Hyundai's Indian subsidiary is already planning a 1.1 litre diesel engine version of the i10 hatchback, while an ultracheap small car — targeted to compete with the Maruti 800 and Tata Motor's Nano — is also in the works for a 2011 debut.
“We cannot make a small car competitively in Korea but we can do that in India,” Jang said.
(Sumant Banerji visited Hyundai's headquarters in Seoul as a guest of the company)