Hyundai is preparing to launch 44 hybrid and electric cars in the next five years as it aims to close the gap with the world’s biggest seller of petrol-electric vehicles, Toyota.
The Korean car maker says hybrid, plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars now account for 2.8 per cent of all new vehicle sales in Australia – more than doubling in the past five years.
While 23 of Hyundai’s 44 future electrified vehicles will have pure electric power, the remainder will be a mix of hybrid and plug-in hybrid.
At the moment, Hyundai is the only brand in Australia that sells all three options – and in one vehicle, the Hyundai Ioniq.
But given the sharp rise in sales of all three types of electric cars Hyundai says it plans to add more to local showrooms, although it admits it is still a “work in progress”.
“We’ve got a range of hybrid vehicles coming globally,” said Scott Nargar, Hyundai’s senior manager for future mobility and government relations. However, he added, “having those vehicles land here in Australia is going to be a work in progress” because there are no government incentives on electric or hybrid cars as there are in Europe.
Critics of hybrid and electric cars say those vehicles already get a tax break by paying lower fuel excise in the case of hybrids – and avoiding fuel excise altogether in the case of electric cars.
The Hyundai executive said the company needs to “study the market and understand what’s happening in Australia, what the transition is, is the government looking for the adoption of (electric cars), or is there still a bit off a roadblock in this country?”.
“It’s a tough market with hybrid and to be frank it’s very tough to go head to head with Toyota,” said Mr Nargar. “They’ve had a long time in the market here in Australia (and) been very successful.
“We’re going to work very hard with hybrid and keep pushing here in Australia. I think you’re going to see many other manufacturers start to bring hybrids as that global shift happens. Manufactures have to have hybrids to meet emission standards, especially in Europe.”
Meanwhile, Mr Nargar said local councils – rather than state and federal governments – were the driving force behind the growth in electric-car sales.
“Councils are becoming our champions at the moment,” said Mr Nargar. “We are not seeing a massive uptake in technology by state government and especially federal fleets just yet.”
However, he said, work was being done “behind the scenes... getting people in power to think about not handing over a fuel card (to employees) and giving them other options”.
He said of the 2.8 per cent of the vehicle market that represented “eco” cars, hybrids accounted for 91 per cent of that portion of sales, electric cars accounted for 5 per cent, and plug-in hybrids 4 per cent.
“There’s a whole portfolio of technology coming in a number of our current platforms but also some of our future platforms,” said Mr Nargar. “Remember we need to meet emissions regulations in various places around the world so those drivetrains are going to become available for us.
“A change of government in May 2021 could lead to all types of technology if that happens,” said Mr Nargar.