Hyundai Motor returns to Japan market with EVs
This time, the Korean automaker will do things differently.
It is only going to sell electric vehicles (EVs) and they will be sold through online channels exclusively.
"For the past 12 years, we have thought about various methods," said Hyundai Motor CEO Chang Jae-hoon in a video message during a press conference with the Japanese media on Tuesday.
"We have decided to go back to ground zero and face the customers seriously."
Two models - the Nexo and the Ioniq 5 - will be sold in Japan this year.
The Nexo SUV, which runs on hydrogen, is seen to have potential in Japan, one of the biggest fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) markets. The Ioniq 5 midsize SUV is at the center of Hyundai Motor's ambitions to grab 10 percent of global EV sales by 2025.
Cars will be sold through Hyundai Motor's official website and a mobile app.
"From test driving to paying and checking the shipping process, everything will be done online," the company said. "With rising demand for online sales, we will provide a smart car purchase experience."
The company will open a so-called experience center in Yokohama in the latter half of this year, where actual cars will be on display and customers can get a feel for the brand's identity. But sales will not be processed at the center.
Orders will be taken starting in May and car deliveries will commence from July, the Korean carmaker said.
Hyundai Motor first entered the Japanese auto market in 2001 and it was a painful experience.
Without thorough market research or an understanding of the local culture, Hyundai Motor focused on selling mid-to-large size sedans and SUVs. But in Japan, small and cost-effective cars were mainstream and customers were protective of local brands, Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
Its main models in Japan were the midsize Grandeur sedan and midsize Tucson SUV. They sold a total of 15,000 units from 2001 to 2009, paltry results in the world's third biggest auto market.
Since pulling out in 2009, Hyundai Motor only sold buses and trucks in Japan.
Hyundai Motor believes it has a chance in Japan's market for all-electric cars, which has been tiny for years but is finally showing signs of growth.
Hybrid vehicles have been popular, with Toyota in the lead. But in order to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, Japan since last year has been expanding subsidies for pure EV purchases and setting up more charging infrastructure.
Toyota which doesn't have a single pure EV model, announced in December it would launch 30 EV models by 2030.
Sales of imported EVs in the country increased by threefold last year to 8,610 units according to Bloomberg.
"Sales of pure EVs are slowly growing in Japan and Hyundai Motor can take advantage of that since there is no competitive models from local brands yet," said Kim Pil-soo, an automotive engineering professor at Daelim University.
BY JIN EUN-SOO [email@example.com]