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Hyundai Motor Group Said to Be Planning to Launch Hybrid Cars in India as Early as 2026

Hyundai Motor Group plans to launch its first hybrid cars in India as early as 2026, three sources said, as the South Korean auto group shifts strategy to look beyond electric vehicles and boost its presence in a key auto market.

The group, housing Hyundai Motor and Kia, is evaluating a hybrid sport-utility vehicle of size similar to its top-selling, mid-sized Creta SUV in India, said two of the sources who have direct knowledge of the plans.

Both Hyundai, which is India’s second-largest carmaker, and Kia are targeting the launch of hybrid SUVs in 2026 or 2027, the two sources said, adding that their EV plans for India were also on track.

In a statement, Hyundai Motor Group told Reuters it was “committed to a future of electrified mobility and will optimize product strategies for each market”.

The pivot to hybrids – which use a gasoline powertrain and electric motor – comes as Hyundai sees a surge in sales of the technology in India, prompting it to shift away from an initial strategy that focused only on battery electric vehicles.

Hyundai and Kia, which now sell only gasoline and diesel cars and imported EVs such as the IONIQ 5 and EV6, respectively, are working to launch their first India-made EVs in the world’s third-largest car market in 2025.

But EV sales have been slow to pick up because of high prices and inadequate charging infrastructure, spurring the company to turn to hybrids as an “interim strategy”, one of the sources said.

“Hyundai has the hybrid technology in other markets. It has now begun work on tailoring that technology for cars in India to make it mainstream,” said the source, adding that growing consumer demand and acceptance of hybrids in recent months led to the shift.

Total car sales in India topped 4 million in 2023, with EVs accounting for more than 2 percent. Hybrids, led by Toyota Motor, are inching closer, with a share of 2 percent.

Hyundai is doubling down on India, where it plans a $3-billion IPO, amid a scaleback of production in China following years of losses there, and having sold its two Russian plants.

Mid- and long-term strategies for India, including EV and hybrid plans, featured in discussions held by Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Euisun Chung, during his second visit to the country last week in less than a year.

India is Hyundai’s third biggest revenue generator after South Korea and the United States.

© Thomson Reuters 2024

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