EV is future, but only with economy of scale: Hyundai India MD & CEO

Hyundai Motor India MD and CEO S S Kim at the launch of the firm’s fully electric SUV Kona | Photo: Sanjay K Sharma
Korean automaker Hyundai launched India’s first fully electric SUV Kona on Tuesday. The government is already giving a major push for electric vehicles, but with a price tag of Rs 25 lakh, this SUV can be bought by only a few. As a result, the carmaker has launched it in only 11 cities. Hyundai India Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer S S Kim tells Arindam Majumder what needs to be done to bring EVs to the mainstream in the country:

The government is pushing electric vehicles but infrastructure for it to become main stream seems to be lacking…

To be honest, it’s not sufficient. A lot needs to be done. People are complaining. But it has improved a lot over the years. The market demand is still ahead. There are issues about charging infrastructure as well. But it’s improving.

So is Hyundai much ahead of time in launching an EV?

Yes and no. I joined the India operations six months back; market feedback shows not many want EVs. Hyundai has introduced EVs across the world. Maybe it wasn’t the right time to enter the Indian market.

Clearly, Kona will be catering to a higher pyramid of the market in terms of price. The cost reflects the higher cost of the battery.

But at the same time, with Kona, we want to eliminate any inhibitions. We hope that driving Kona will change the mindset of the customer.

Why have you leapfrogged hybrid and moved straightaway to EV, where as many of your competitors are saying that hybrid vehicle?

Our hybrid vehicles are very popular across the world. In India, the government is focusing more on EVs. So that has become our focus area. Also hybrid engines still use petrol and diesel. It may be better than normal IC engines but there is still emission. We are trying to completely eliminate that.

We are not overlooking hybrid vehicles. If the government supports hybrids with their policies and taxation structure, we will definitely formulate a strategy. But right now, EV looks like the future.

You mentioned that the price of EV may still be a hurdle in it becoming a mass market product. What needs to be done to change that?

The price of a vehicle depends completely on the economy of scale, on whether we have meaningful demand from the market. Our vendors and suppliers will only do business on a reduced cost if they see the volume of scale.

Manufacturing locally can also reduce the cost of an EV. Do you see that happening?

For Kona, we are importing most of the parts from South Korea and localising bulky components such as seats, bumpers. For localisation to increase, the volume has to grow. Only then OEMs will be able to strike meaningful deals with suppliers and vendors.

Hyundai globally has a smart EV platform. In India you have announced over a billion-dollar investment. Will we see a host of products regarding EV flowing into India?

We are preparing a India-specific EV platform. Some of the products will be targeted towards India in terms of price and quality.

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