It's a dogfight out there and only the fittest survive. Right now, being the fittest means making SUVs and planning for EVs.
South Korea's reputation as one of the largest lithium-ion battery producers in the world took a hit after Samsung Galaxy Note 7s started exploding on people, prompting even the FAA to issue a ban of the device on planes. Reuters now mentions that two other Korean giants, Hyundai and its partner Kia, want to revitalize the nation's good name in battery manufacturing with a slew of electric cars set to begin trickling out to the public as early as next year.
Due to the time crunch, these cars will be built on existing platforms, however the Korean EVs will be followed by more sophisticated electric vehicles riding on dedicated EV platforms. Lee Ki-sang, Hyundai-Kia's green cars operations leader, told Reuters that the electric car platform will be designed with its batteries placed in the floor of the car like a Tesla in order to accommodate more battery capacity, keep the center of gravity low, and open up more room in the cabin. He also mentioned how risky the push for electrification is for the brand. "The electric-vehicle platform will require high up-front investments but we are doing this to prepare for the future," he said.
The Korean automakers will sell its first EVs at a loss, but despite the uncertainty, the move is a must. If Hyundai and Kia were to wait any longer, the two companies could be rendered unable to compete with the next generation of electric cars that are being built by every major automaker. Taking a move out of Tesla's playbook, Hyundai will also begin selling electric versions of its upscale Genesis line, with full EV models coming in 2019 after a plug-in hybrid debuts that year, supplementing the current crop. Lower in the line will be SUVs, with Hyundai set to debut a competitive offering claiming around 186 miles of range followed by a Kia version of the SUV next year.
Aside from clearing the hurdle of the initial investment, Kia will have to find Chinese battery suppliers. That's because the Chinese government is using subsidies to push its citizens to purchase electric cars and restrictions on Korean batteries mean that local units must be used. Trailing Germany as the fifth largest car producer in the world, Korea will need to make sure to get these cars to market if it hopes to keep up.