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Hyundai used New York to illustrate its product path forward

NEW YORK — At a time when some automakers are rethinking product strategies, Hyundai Motor Group is gaining momentum in the U.S. with new vehicles for its Hyundai, Genesis and Kia brands, and big investments that will strengthen its position as a leading electric vehicle maker.

The South Korean auto group dominated the New York auto show this week, leaving most of the industry silent in the nation’s largest city.

“New York is the most important auto show in the country, and we have a tradition to always have a very strong presence here,” Jose Muñoz, COO of Hyundai Motor Co., told Automotive News at the show. The many vehicle introductions represent the aggressive commitment the group’s brands have to the U.S. market, he said.

Hyundai Motor Co. is on a tear, investing in new models, EV technology and advanced vehicle electronics.


News reports around the world say the automaker is now planning to spend $51 billion in South Korea over three years and hire 80,000 employees there to accelerate production and R&D for EVs and software-defined vehicles and to develop cutting-edge new factory systems to take the cost out of future vehicles.

At the same time, the company is planning new EVs that would be priced at $25,000 or less, Hyundai Motor America CEO Randy Parker revealed in an interview on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Hyundai brand officials debuted a freshened Tucson compact crossover and a Santa Cruz pickup. Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury division, revealed two new EV concepts — the GV60 Magma and a full-size crossover called the Neolun.

Kia, which operates as a separate company from Hyundai despite sharing the same parent group, debuted its K4 compact sedan that replaces the popular Forte in its lineup. The brand teased that the K4 will come in two body styles — a sedan and a sport wagon — with the aim of gaining favor among younger buyers who want both affordability and space for friends and cargo.

“We built a new car meant to reinvigorate the entry sedan,” Kia America COO Steve Center told Automotive News. “And it’s not a penalty box, as we say. It’s fully featured, high-tech and quite powerful.”

Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst for S&P Global Mobility, said it’s not that Hyundai Motor Group has more new models than its competitors — but that the automaker was not going to miss a chance to tell consumers about it.

“Hyundai is a good news story right now,” Brinley said. “They’ve got a lot of new products — in hybrid, electric, plug-in hybrid and internal combustion. And on the EV front, they’re not slowing down at all.”


Hyundai revealed significant styling and technology enhancements to its Tucson compact crossover and Tucson-based Santa Cruz, the brand’s unibody pickup.


The Tucson is Hyundai’s No. 1-selling vehicle. Last year, it surpassed sales of 200,000 for the first time. The crossover is Hyundai’s only vehicle that offers gasoline, hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains — representative of the automaker’s strategy to “meet customers where they are on their journey” to electrification, Muñoz said.

Hyundai showed updated off-roading XRT trim levels for both vehicles, with the more pronounced Santa Cruz version getting front tow hooks, 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-terrain tires and more off-roading capability with an increased approach angle.

For now, the Santa Cruz is offered only with a gasoline-powered engine, but Parker told Automotive News that an electric variant of the pickup could be in its future. Hyundai already has three EVs on the market — the Ioniq 5 compact crossover, the Ioniq 6 sedan and the Kona subcompact crossover.


The group’s luxury division showcased five concept vehicles as part of an elaborate presentation at its Genesis House studio in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

Genesis said now that it has established some foothold among luxury rivals, it will focus on developing a performance trim under the Magma moniker. The subbrand will produce high-powered vehicles with both electric and gasoline powertrains.

“We took Genesis from basically nothing eight years ago to a real luxury brand, in price parity with German competitors and well ahead of Japanese competitors in terms of positioning, and then also growing in volume,” Muñoz said.


Genesis revealed the GV80 Coupe concept, the G80 Magma and the GV60 Magma concept, all intended for production, with the GV60 to come first. Genesis also showed an X Gran Berlinetta concept, a fetching design study not intended for production, but to be driven in the Gran Turismo 7 video game.

The brand also debuted its Neolun full-size electric crossover concept, the likely predecessor to a three-row GV90. The name combines the Greek word for new, “neo,” and the Latin word for moon, “lun.”


Hyundai, Genesis and Kia were early to market with EVs and continue to gain share among rivals. In January, the most recent data for new-vehicle registrations, combined EV registrations for Hyundai, Genesis and Kia made the group the U.S. market’s No. 2 manufacturer of EVs behind Tesla, according to data from S&P Global Mobility.

While some automakers appear to be pulling back from earlier EV sales targets, Hyundai is “doubling down,” Muñoz said. Reports of the deep new investments in South Korea indicate the automaker is more committed than ever to electrifying its global vehicle portfolio.

Also counted in the reported $51 billion in new investments is development work on software-defined vehicles, a promising field that will allow for downloading of new features and performance characteristics, or for fixing product glitches in vehicles already on the road.

Muñoz said the company is focused not just on selling more cars, but also on remaking itself as an automaker for a future of advanced technologies.

“It’s not only about the production and the cars that we are announcing,” he said, “but also about how we see the future, and the software-defined vehicles, and changing the concept of how we produce and design the cars we bring here. And we are really making good strides towards that.”

At the same time, the Korean group is hustling to open a $7.6 billion so-called Metaplant EV and battery complex that’s under construction outside of Savannah, Ga. Hyundai has accelerated the timeline for the project, and it will begin assembly of the first of six EVs for its brands’ nameplates this October.


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