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Hyundai Intros EV That Doesn’t Try to Look Like One

Executive Summary

“People can say, ‘Boy, for not a whole lot more money, I can get into a CUV electric,’” says Chief Operating Officer Brian Smith, predicting the Kona EV’s expected popularity.

Will a fair amount of vehicle shoppers go to a Hyundai dealership to test drive a gasoline-powered vehicle and end up buying an electric-version of the brand’s subcompact Kona CUV?

Brian Smith, HMA’s chief operating officer, thinks so.

“People can say, ‘Boy, for not a whole lot more money, I can get into a CUV electric,’” he says. Not just any vehicle, but a CUV. Those are hot in today’s market. “That’s the difference,” Smith says, predicting the Kona EV’s expected popularity. 

Hyundai unveils the vehicle at the New York International Auto Show. It goes on sale this fall. The automaker hasn’t announced pricing.

But the gasoline-powered Kona, which went on sale in the U.S. earlier this year, starts at $19,500. Based on Smith’s description of price-comparing customers opting for an EV version, the impending one isn’t expected to bust consumers’ budgets.

Early buyers of alternative-fuel vehicles wanted them to look different, Smith says on the sidelines following the Kona EV debut. In a desire to make an environmental statement, “they wanted a vehicle that stood out as a hybrid,” he says.

“Nowadays, we’re finding people still like to be noticed, but not in that way.” They don’t necessarily want a vehicle design that screams EV. Looking like a regular vehicle is just fine. “That’s a big driver,” Smith says.  

Hyundai also expect the upcoming Kona EV’s range of 250 miles (400 km) to draw buyers. “When you get to 250 and higher, people stop worrying about range anxiety,” Smith says.  

The vehicle first goes on sale in California, then in other states with similar zero-emission-vehicle standard. “We have hand-raisers and dealers who are interested in it. We want to have a distribution model that is as fair as possible,” Smith says.

He declines to project sales. “We’re still assessing volume. We’ll start small. We want good demand before we build lots of them, but lot of people who test drive a Kona will consider the EV version. You don’t give up anything.”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com

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