Korean hybrid vehicles pick up the pace in U.S.

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Korean hybrid vehicles pick up the pace in U.S.

Hyundai and Kia, the nation’s top two automakers, are trying to expand their hybrid auto business as consumers look for fuel efficiency and greenness.

According to the automakers, Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid sold 2,129 units in the U.S. last month, while the Kia K5 (known as the Optima overseas) sold 1,206 units. Their combined sales in May was a monthly record since Korean automakers first released hybrids in 2011.

The figure is also a 44 percent increase over a year earlier.

In the first five months, the two automakers sold 14,234 units in the U.S., a 30.7 percent on-year increase.

Hybrid sales in the U.S., the world’s second-largest auto market, have been soaring due to expensive gasoline prices and consumers’ preferences for fuel efficient cars. Although the segment is dominated by Japanese automaker Toyota’s Prius, analysts said Hyundai and Kia are steadily gaining ground. For three consecutive months, Hyundai and Kia’s hybrid sales were over 3,000 units in the U.S.

Both hybrid models are manufactured in Korea and exported. Hyundai expects that resumption of weekend overtime work after disputes with its workers will boost its supply in the U.S. and other regions.

In Korea, Hyundai and Kia sold 9,287 hybrid units in the first five months of the year, up 6.5 percent from a year ago.

The automakers are revving up hybrid sales at home following Toyota’s aggressive promotions.

Toyota Korea last month offered a 3 million won ($2,660) discount on its Camry Hybrid and Prius. According to the company, 173 Camry Hybrids were sold in May, which far exceeded its average monthly sales of 76 units from January to April. The sales of Priuses last month were 305 units, more than three times the model’s average sales.

Hyundai said it will offer a 2 million won discount on the Sonata Hybrid, while Kia said it will give a 2.5 million won price cut on the K5 Hybrid.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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