By 2016, automakers who wish to sell vehicles in the United States will have to produce a model lineup that averages 34.9 miles per gallon—or face big fines. Hyundai, which currently leads the industry in fuel economy, says that it will have no trouble reaching that or any other scheduled Corporate Average Fuel Economy increases.
In fact, Hyundai North American president John Krafcik this week told a seminar at the Center Automotive Research that the company plans to hit an average of 50 mpg for its lineup by 2025 thanks to a bold market strategy that prioritizes fuel efficiency and affordability—and puts hybrids front and center. As reported in The Detroit News, Krafcik told the audience, “Getting to 50 mpg and beyond seems like a huge leap, but by making this commitment and aligning our R&D initiatives now, we know we can get there.”
The first steps have already been taken. Later this year, the new Hyundai Sonata Hybrid will hit dealerships in the U.S. The Sonata will offer highway fuel economy that approaches 40 mpg, and a price tag that is expected to beat competing mid-sized hybrid offerings from Ford and Toyota. The Korean carmaker has also committed to releasing a compact hybrid that it calls its “Prius fighter.” That offering will be represent Hyundai’s first move into the dedicated hybrid market and engineers are said to be trying to beat the Prius’s fuel economy numbers.
One area that Hyundai hasn’t yet fully committed to is plug-in cars. Though last year’s Frankfurt Auto Show saw the debut of the Hyundai’s Blue-Will plug-in hybrid concept, the carmaker says it will bide its time on lithium ion battery powered offerings until that technology’s performance goes up and costs go down.
Hyundai does expect electric and fuel cell cars to factor into its long-term plans—just not as centrally as hybrids. By 2025 the company says it hopes to generate 20 percent of its annual sales from hybrids and 5 percent from electric drivetrain vehicles.
Hyundai set a U.S. sales record for July, with 54,106 units sold—up 19 percent from a year ago. The company’s plant in Alabama, which makes the Sonata sedan and Santa Fe crossover, is running at maximum overtime to meet the high demand. Krafcik said Hyundai plans to expand U.S. production in the next month or two.