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Hyundai mulls reentry into Japan with EVs, FCEVs

CEO Jang says they are checking the competitiveness of the NEXO and the IONIQ 5

By Nov 08, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)


Hyundai Motor President & CEO Chang Jae-hoon (Courtesy of Hyundai Motor)
Hyundai Motor President & CEO Chang Jae-hoon (Courtesy of Hyundai Motor)

Hyundai Motor Co. is considering a return to Japan with electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles after South Korea’s top carmaker retreated from the world’s third-largest automobile market 13 years ago.

Hyundai Motor President & CEO Chang Jae-hoon said in an interview with Nikkei Business that the company is thoroughly reviewing reentry into Japan, adding “we plan to decide in consideration of external circumstances such as market conditions, as well as the company’s internal situation.”

“We are checking the competitiveness of the hydrogen-powered NEXO and the EV IONIQ 5 (compared to similar models) and reviewing their sales channels,” Jang said in the interview, according to Hyundai. “We are also mulling introducing hydrogen electric buses for corporate demand.”

Hyundai made inroads into Japan in 2001 but gave up the passenger car business in 2009 due to poor earnings there, having sold only 15,000 units in total during the period.

“We didn't sufficiently research the market conditions, such as Japanese customer demand,” Jang said. “We will provide differentiated values not to repeat the failure in the past.”

'LESS RESISTANT TO FOREIGN CAR BRANDS'

Jang said 2022 is the right time to return to the neighboring country.

“Customers are getting less resistant to brands (from other countries) since individual values such as importance to the environment are more emphasized in selecting products.”

Japanese drivers are highly loyal to domestic brands. Local carmakers dominated more than 80% of the market with Toyota Motor Corp. accounting for 50.6% of the country’s new car market during the first 10 months of the year. Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. grasped 11.3% and 9.6%, respectively.

But they were seen to be slightly behind the curve in EV offerings, giving Hyundai a chance to penetrate the market again, analysts said.

“A new opportunity has come to the automobile industry for the first time in 100 years. Hyundai is in the top-tier group of the EV sector along with Tesla and Volkswagen as we launched models based on the Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP),” Jang said, referring to Hyundai Motor Group’s self-developed EV platform.

Hyundai may sell cars in Japan through completely different channels than before, Jang said, stoking speculation that the company is considering online sales.

Japanese customers prefer offline shopping in general, but the trend has begun to change. Honda has started selling new cars online, becoming the first major automaker in the country to allow customers in the local market to complete the entire purchase process online, according to media reports.

Write to Hyung-Kyu Kim at khk@hankyung.com

Jongwoo Cheon edited this article.
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