Hyundai has an ambitious product plan going forward that includes not only SUVs and performance vehicles but also battery-electric vehicles and hybrids, according to Jose Munoz, Hyundai Motor America’s chief executive officer.
Munoz, who joined Hyundai last year after a long career at Nissan, told a webinar organized by Detroit’s Automotive Press Association confirmed that the company plans to sell 1 million electric vehicles annually by 2025. That global number includes Hyundai, Genesis and Kia.
He added that Hyundai hung back in addressing the shift by consumers towards sport-utility vehicles with new products. However, Hyundai now has a full array of SUVs with the introduction of the new Tucson and more SUVs are in the pipeline, in fact the company is spending more than $400 million at its Alabama plant to build the Tucson.
However, Hyundai is eager to lead with new products. “We don’t want to be fast followers. We want to be pioneers,” said Munoz. Hyundai now plans to introduce 12 new and/or enhanced SUVs continuing through the 2021 calendar year.
Munoz also revealed Hyundai is determined to take a leadership in EVs through its Ionic brand, which will be sold by Hyundai dealers across the United States in all 50 states not just on the West Coast as well as hybrids.
Ioniq vehicles will be battery-electric only, badged only as Ioniq. Vehicles such as the Kona will carry a Hyundai badge because they are being built with multiple powertrain options, such batteries, hybrid or internal combustion engine. This will start with the arrival of the Ioniq 5 next year, he said.
“We see hybrids as a key piece,” he said, adding hybrids are particularly effective in larger vehicles where is room for packaging both an electric motor and an ICE engine, while electric vehicles work best in smaller, lighter vehicles.
Munoz also said Hyundai is one of the leaders in the development of fuel cells, which ultimately prove very efficient for transporting people and goods over long distances. Several years ago, the South Korean automaker produced and sold a fuel cell-powered Tucson. He noted that the automaker is working with agencies and other groups to expand the charging network in the U.S. for electric vehicles.
Hyundai is also is making major contributions to the U.S. economy, including investing $410 million at its Alabama assembly plant to build the new Tucson there, in addition to South Korea. He noted he pushed the higher ups at the parent company to add Tucson assembly, which will likely nearly max out the plant’s production capacity,
“We employ more than 100,000 people in the U.S,” he said. The company also will be adding jobs at its assembly plant in Alabama where it plans to build the versions of the Tucson that will be equipped with internal combustion engines.
He also confirmed that the company was on track to begin producing its first-ever pickup truck, the Santa Cruz, during the second quarter of 2021. “We are very committed to that,” he said, noting there was a lot of excitement surrounding the launch.
While Munoz was generally very excited about what was going on with his company, he toned it down some when addressing what he expects U.S. new vehicle sales to be next year, saying the company was “cautiously optimistic,” expecting full-year 2021 sales to be about 15.2 million vehicles.