SEOUL, Dec. 6 (Korea Bizwire) – The prevailing trend in the automotive market is currently centered around the craze for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), marking a notable shift in consumer preferences. Despite the somewhat sluggish sales of fully electric vehicles, hybrids, previously considered a passing fad, are experiencing a resurgence.
This revival is evident in the recent surge of imported hybrid vehicle sales, surpassing sales of conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles for the first time in November. Despite an overall decrease in the number of imported vehicles due to the economic downturn, the demand for hybrid vehicles is on the rise, as reported by the Korea Association of Imported Motor Vehicles (KAIDA).
Breaking down the November sales figures, hybrids accounted for the largest share at 40.4 percent, with 9,996 units, followed closely by gasoline-powered vehicles at 40.1 percent (9,933 units). Electric vehicles constituted 10 percent (2,471 units), diesel vehicles 6.2 percent (1,524 units), and plug-in hybrids 3.3 percent (816 units).
This marks the first time that imported hybrid sales have exceeded sales of gasoline-powered vehicles since their introduction to Korea in September 2006. The total new registrations for imported passenger cars in November were 24,740, reflecting a 12.3 percent decrease from the same month last year (28,222).
The hybrid trend extends beyond imported vehicles and is making waves among domestic carmakers as well. Kia, known for the market-leading Carnival minivan, has introduced its first-ever hybrid version of the Carnival in response to the growing popularity of hybrid vehicles.
The Carnival Hybrid has proven to be a huge hit, with 34,360 contracts signed on the first day of pre-orders (Nov. 8), and hybrids accounting for over 90 percent of all Carnival new-model contracts.
Similarly, Hyundai, with the fifth-generation Santa Fe launched in August, eliminated the diesel model from its lineup, and now offers only gasoline and hybrid options. Hyundai is also set to introduce a hybrid engine in the partially redesigned Tucson midsize SUV in December.
This shift towards hybrids comes as a surprise considering the recent buzz surrounding electric vehicles. Just a year ago, the market was anticipating a widespread transition to EVs, predicting the decline of internal combustion engines, including hybrids. However, this year has seen a deviation from expectations, with EV sales falling short.
From January to October, hybrids accounted for a substantial 43.5 percent increase in new passenger vehicle registrations compared to the same period last year, reaching 249,854 registrations. Hybrid vehicles now make up 19.9 percent of all new vehicles registered, with one in every five new cars sold being a hybrid.
The resurgence of hybrids can be attributed to their fuel efficiency, offering comparable efficiency to electric cars. For instance, the Hyundai Avante hybrid model demonstrates a significant fuel economy advantage of up to 10 miles per gallon over its gasoline counterpart, resulting in lower operating costs. Additionally, hybrids eliminate the inconvenience of finding a charging station, addressing a common concern with electric cars.
Safety also plays a role in the renewed popularity of hybrids. While electric vehicles have faced issues like sudden acceleration and uncontainable fires, hybrid vehicles have remained free of major safety controversies. This has positioned hybrid vehicles as eco-friendly options with low risk and easy maintenance, contributing to their renewed appeal.
The resurgence of hybrids is prompting a shift in strategy among domestic automakers. Korean automakers, including Renault Korea and KG Mobility, are announcing plans to launch hybrid vehicles, signaling a strategic move in response to the changing market dynamics.
Renault Korea, which did not introduce any new vehicles this year, is set to make a comeback with a hybrid vehicle in the second half of next year, focusing on an SUV with a hybrid engine. KG Mobility, collaborating with Chinese battery maker BYD, is also gearing up to re-enter the market with a hybrid model.
Kevin Lee (email@example.com)