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Kia speeds up work on a hybrid model

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May 04,2005
Kia Motors Corp. said it will develop a hybrid-engine model sooner than planned for the U.S. market as rising gasoline prices increase demand for more fuel-efficient models, U.S. Chief Executive Officer Peter Butterfield said yesterday. The shift to vehicles that use less fuel isn’t temporary, Mr. Butterfield said. Kia, an affiliate of Hyundai Motor Co., will pull forward a program for a model using a combination of electric motor and gasoline engine to either late 2006 or early 2007. He didn’t say when the hybrid was originally scheduled. “The gasoline at the pump is affecting everyone,” Butterfield said. “People that were buying higher-priced, more fuel-inefficient vehicles are starting to move down in the segment to more fuel-efficient vehicles.” U.S. sales of the biggest sport-utility vehicles, such as Ford Motor Co.’s Explorer and General Motors Corp.’s Suburban, declined last year and in the first quarter of 2005 as unleaded gasoline prices rose 48 percent. Sales are rising for smaller truck models that travel further on a gallon of fuel, such as the Kia Sportage and Honda Motor’s CR-V. U.S. hybrid sales rose to 35,474 from 16,087 a year earlier in the first quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.


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