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The Hyundai Australia of old is no more - gone are the days when people looked to the brand for the most affordable cars in the country in their respective segments, with new introductions signalling a significant change in tact from the brand.
Consider this - the all-new Tucson starts at $34,500 plus on-road costs, up from the last model’s entry price kick-off of $32,140 for the auto range-opener. This version was often on driveaway deals at sub-thirty grand.
But despite models like the all-new Tucson offering a number of new cabin technologies and safety systems to customers, the company is at risk of falling behind the times when it comes to powertrains.
The new-generation Tucson is launching with a petrol front-wheel-drive model, while a turbo-petrol all-wheel-drive and a diesel AWD model will follow in the coming months. The company reckons 60 per cent of customers will go for the base petrol 2.0L MPi FWD model, while the remaining sales will be split between the 1.6 T-GDi AWD and the 2.0 CRDi AWD (20 per cent each).
Missing from the picture is any form of electrification, which the brand seemingly cannot make a business case for in Australia.
That leaves the likes of the Toyota RAV4 - already the dominant player in the market - to forge ahead with its distinct competitive advantage, while the Subaru Forester Hybrid gathers momentum, and the all-new Mitsubishi Outlander and Nissan X-Trail models due late 2021/early 2022 will offer customers a choice of conventional or electrified powertrains.
Hyundai Australia chief operating officer John Kett said that hybrid isn’t the be-all and end-all for the brand, despite its bold - and arguably misleading - marketing tagline that the new Tucson is ‘tomorrow’s car, today’,” said Mr Kett.
“When you’re imagining a car, that can’t be tomorrow’s car unless it has some form of alternative powertrains. I think we’ve demonstrated that we’re somewhat leading - at least in zero-emissions-based production cars.
“To move to hybrid - I understand that one of our competitors has an advantage on that. Quite frankly, we don’t see that as tomorrow’s car. Zero emissions is our priority. We think hybrid is a transition technology, we think it’s an easier entry to it.
“What we’re thinking of doing with hybrid: I think we’ve announced that the Santa Fe will get a hybrid, we have Ioniq which has a hybrid today.”
Mr Kett said it’s hard not to take notice of what Toyota has achieved in Australia with hybrid demand - some customers are waiting up to half a year to get their RAV4 hybrid delivered, for example.
“The rest of us [competitors to Toyota] are addressing that space, and there’s no doubt consumers have demonstrated a willingness to go to hybrid on price, and the concerns around range anxiety - I’m sure that’s important to them as well,” he said.
“The proposition we will bring forward with electrification will address that. And whether we go into hybrids to augment our zero-emission aspirations is still something the team is working through.”
It's worth noting Mr Kett suggested hybrid isn’t the answer just a few moments earlier.
Bill Thomas, general manager of corporate communications for Hyundai Australia, was more forward with his wording around the desire for a hybrid to be part of the Tucson range.
“The powertrains aren’t as advanced as some competitors, but if you look at the car and the features packed into it - from that point of view, from a customer’s perspective - it’s a strong, futuristic kind of car,” said Mr Thomas.
“I don’t think there’s anyone here who would disagree that having a hybrid would be an advantage for us in this car.”
All that said, Scott Yoon, coordinating director Hyundai Australia, confirmed the brand doesn’t have any current plans to electrify the Tucson range.
“At the moment, there are no plans to bring in Tucson Hybrid. We’ve talked about it on several occasions, it comes from a different factory, so it could be prohibitively expensive. It’s also difficult to build a business case because there are import tariffs for cars from the Czech plant, where as from Korea there’s a free-trade agreement. Also the fact there is no federal emissions standard, building that business case is difficult,” said Mr Yoon.
“There is an option the factory is willing to build it for us, but it’s how we get the numbers to justify the initial development required for Australian specs.”
“We’re the only brand that offers two EVs, we’ll be offering a third in a matter of time,” he said, referring to the Ioniq 5 model, which is - in essence - an electric mid-size SUV that will sit above the Tucson range.