Hyundai has broken through one million sales in the UK, but company boss Tony Whitehorn has promised “no let up” in the manufacturer’s ambitious pursuit of annual sales of 100,000 and a market share of 5%.
The Korean manufacturer first sold cars in the UK in 1982, but the launch of Hyundai UK as a global subsidiary 10 years ago was the catalyst for rapid growth. It is the fastest-growing car manufacturer in the UK; it holds a 3.5% share of the domestic market and sold more than 82,000 cars in 2014.
Whitehorn, president and CEO of Hyundai UK, said: “I don’t know of any other brand that has released more products than ourselves in the past 10 years and we will release as many products again between now and 2020. We won’t take a breath. Hyundai ploughs all the money that it earns back into products and that is what has driven the changes in the company.”
Whitehorn said low-emissions vehicles are integral to the ongoing growth. Hyundai plans to introduce 22 such vehicles by 2020.
Following on from the ix35 Fuel Cell that went on sale this year, Hyundai is known to be readying its own dedicated hybrid model to take on the likes of the Toyota Prius in Europe, and the same vehicle architecture could be used as the basis for a battery-powered electric vehicle. Hyundai's hybrid will be the sister car to the upcoming Kia Niro hybrid, which Autocar has already driven in prototype form.
“Next year we are looking at hybrid and EV technology coming out, and that will just escalate,” said Whitehorn. “I see electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-in hybrids as a way of bridging the gap between the internal combustion engine and pure fuel cell technology. How long that bridge lasts for is uncertain, but it is interesting to see manufacturers such as ourselves going for a variety of technologies.”
He predicted that the UK car market is on the brink of a radical transformation, with a combination of customer preference and government legislation and taxation driving more people towards alternatively fuelled vehicles.
“During the next five years we will see a change in the car market the kind of which we have never before experienced. It will be a move towards a variety of methods of propulsion. We will have diesel, petrol, electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell.
“Car buyers are more focused on emissions than ever before and are starting to look at alternatives. Companies such as ourselves who are starting to come to market with more hybrid, electric and fuel cell vehicles will benefit because people are going to be looking for those alternatives."
Whitehorn remained confident that demand for fuel cell vehicles would grow as the fuelling infrastructure develops.
“Projections suggest that by 2030, the UK car market will be selling 300,000 fuel cells per year. That’s only 15 years away and that’s a serious number of vehicles that are going to be sold – about 5-6% of the total market,” he explained.
Yesterday the manufacturer celebrated the end of its ‘A Streetcar Named Hyundai’ driving challenge, in which an ix35 Fuel Cell completed a 50-day, 2092-mile tour of the capital, passing along each of the streets defined in the London cabbie’s ‘knowledge’.
The ix35 Fuel Cell was fitted with software designed to capture more than half a million photos during the drive. The photos have been used to create a mosaic image of all London’s streets and a time-lapse video.
To commemorate its sales milestone, the manufacturer's one millionth UK-bound vehicle, a Hyundai Tucson in top Premium SE trim, is being given away via an online competition.