* Hybrid version of popular Sonata sedan rolled out in
S.Korea this mth
* Hyundai to launch plug-in hybrid to challenge Toyota Prius
in 2013 -official
(Add details, background)
SEOUL May 24 Hyundai Motor said on
Tuesday that it aimed to sell 11,000 units of its first
gasoline-electric hybrid model, the Sonata Hybrid, in South
Korea this year, as rising gasoline prices stoke demand for
The move comes as Japanese rival Toyota Motor
suffers from tight supplies of popular models such as the Prius
hybrid after Japan's March 11 earthquake disrupted production.
"The timing is appropriate for the launch of the Sonata
Hybrid as Toyota is suffering from supply shortages of the Prius
and other small, fuel-efficient models," Ko Tae-bong, an analyst
at IBK Securities, said.
"Hyundai entered the hybrid market belatedly, but it is
catching up quickly."
Hyundai Motor has enjoyed rapid growth in recent years, but
has been slow in tapping the electric car market, focusing
instead on fuel-efficient gasoline models.
It launched the hybrid version of the popular mid-sized
Sonata sedan in South Korea early this month and in the the U.S.
market in January.
"We aim to sell more than 11,000 Sonata Hybrids this year
and 18,000 units annually in South Korea," Sean Kim, senior vice
president and head of Hyundai's domestic marketing group, told
With governments tightening environmental and fuel economy
standards, Toyota competitors are turning up the heat with new
technologies including battery electric cars and "range
extenders" such as General Motors's Volt.
Hyundai will also roll out a plug-in hybrid to challenge
Toyota's Prius in 2013, a company official said.
"We plan to launch a plug-in hybrid model which is in the
same segment as the Prius in 2013," the official told Reuters on
condition of anonymity, as he was not authorised to talk to the
Hyundai Motor unveiled its first full-electric model, the
BlueOn, last year, but it is produced for government use.
Affiliate Kia Motors said it plans to roll out its
first pure-electric vehicle based on upcoming cross utility
vehicles in December this year. [ID:nTOE68D09B]
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and