Automotive News reports that Hyundai and Kia have moved up the schedule for introducing hybrids to the US to late 2006 from a prior target of after 2007.
According to the report, the first hybrid models will be Hyundai’s Accent and Kia’s Rio—the same hybrid models Hyundai is producing for Korea in very small numbers (a few hundred).
Larger hybrid vehicles won’s arrive until “maybe in 2008 or the beginning of 2009.”
“The number that we ship to the United States will be very few, to see the reaction,” [Lee Hyun Soon, senior executive vice president in charge of powertrains] says. “I don’t think we can make a profit with hybrids in the United States.”
Hyundai has developed its hybrid technology itself, working with Enova, in which it has a stake. The company is buying its batteries from Panasonic EV Energy Co., the Matsushita Electrical-Toyota joint venture that supplies the batteries for the Prius.
It may well be that Hyundai isn’t able to produce profitable hybrids for the US, or that the company only has enough confidence in the profitability of the smaller models (such as the Accent). But I would think that they would lead with a hybrid variant of the Tucson, or with an application of the hybrid crossover concept Portico, introduced at the Chicago Auto Show (earlier post), or with a hybrid version of the Sonata. Those are the model classes that Hyundai is emphasizing in its shows, fuel cell work, and so on.
(A tip of the hat to rosebro!)