Hyundai is “doubling down” on EVs despite sales slowdown, CEO says

Electric vehicle sales may be in a bit of a slump, but Hyundai isn’t deterred. The South Korea-based automaker is “doubling down” on its EV investment, including a $7.6 billion dedicated manufacturing facility in Georgia, said Hyundai Motor America CEO Randy Parker.

“While other manufacturers are pulling back on their electrification strategy, we continue to be focused on our products,” Parker said in an interview this week with The Verge. “And our products have done extremely well in the marketplace.”

Those products include the popular Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6 as well as a recently refreshed Kona Electric. And there’s also the recently released performance-based Ioniq 5 N, which recently won the 2024 World Performance Car award.

Hyundai Motor America CEO Randy Parker.
Image: Getty

While other automakers are struggling with sluggish demand, Hyundai’s EVs have been selling robustly. The company sold 14,798 EVs in March 2024 across all three of its battery-electric models — a 53 percent increase over the number sold the previous year. Other companies have seen their sales decline, spurring them to delay factory plans or pull back investments.

But that said, the company — which has recently emerged as No. 3 in the world in terms of sales, behind Toyota and Volkswagen — isn’t totally immune from the external forces scrambling the shift to an all-EV future. Globally, Hyundai sold 153,519 electrified models in the first quarter of 2024, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electric vehicles, and fuel cell electric vehicles. That’s down 4.8 percent compared to the same period last year. And its global operating profits were down 2.3 percent year over year.

Parker said that the domestic outlook was still looking optimistic. “I’m not in a position to talk about the balance sheet globally, but let me just say that we’re doing okay in the United States.”

Photo by Andrew Hawkins / The Verge

In the US, Parker said the company is working to address the frustrations that many people have said are holding them back from an EV purchase, namely around price and charging availability. He cited a “very aggressive 24 month lease program” for the Ioniq 5 and 6. The vehicles themselves have “class-leading range” — up to 303 miles for the Ioniq 5 and as much as 360 miles for some versions of the Ioniq 6 — to address anxiety around charging. And both vehicles feature 800-volt architectures, which can add 100 miles of range in as little as seven minutes, depending on the speed of the charger.

“We’re trying to make driving an EV affordable”

“We’re trying to make driving an EV affordable,” Parker said, “but at the same time removing some of those objections when it comes to range and charging.”

Also on the horizon is Hyundai’s partnership with Tesla to give its customers access to the company’s Supercharger network. Parker said existing Hyundai EV owners will get access to Tesla Superchargers at the end of 2024 but that adapters won’t start getting mailed out until the first quarter of 2025.

Tesla recently went through a major round of layoffs, with its Supercharger team being hit particularly hard. Experts have voiced concerns about future reliability of the company’s EV chargers given the loss of expertise and workforce, but Parker said Hyundai is “still committed” to its partnership with the company. “I haven’t been given any reason to doubt our strategy moving forward,” he added.

There are other obstacles. Hyundai’s EVs are made in South Korea, which makes them ineligible for the $7,500 federal EV tax credit. But that could be short-lived as the company’s plant in Georgia finishes construction, with the first EVs expected to come off the assembly line in the fourth quarter of this year. In addition to Hyundai, the factory will produce electric vehicles for Kia and Genesis as well.

There could be labor challenges on the horizon as well. The United Auto Workers, fresh off their victory over the Big Three domestic automakers as well as a successful unionization vote at a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, are targeting more Southern factories for organizing — including Hyundai’s. Parker said that Hyundai prides itself on its “very strong culture” but said any unionization vote would ultimately be up to the workers.

“The decision to be represented by a union is purely up to the team members and so far, they’ve spoken and I’ll just leave it at that,” he said.

Regardless of how that shakes out, Hyundai’s future will be electric. The company may need to sell a lot of hybrids and gas cars before the full switch can be realized, but Parker is convinced that it’s heading in the right direction.

“It’s a transition just like anything else, you know what I mean?” he said. “People transition from the rotary phone to the iPhone. I mean, it’s just going to happen. And, to me, I would say the future is electric and in some regards, we’re already late.”

Source: The Verge

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