SEOUL--Hyundai Motors is a latecomer to the hybrid-vehicle race, but the Korean automaker is setting high targets for the technology as it chases Toyota and Honda.
Hyundai is scheduled to sell its first U.S. hybrid, a version of its mid-sized Sonata sedan, in 2010. Initial annual volume is expected to be around 50,000 units.
But Hyundai expects its annual hybrid sales to balloon to 500,000 units worldwide by 2018, says Brandon Yea, senior vice president for marketing. That still puts Hyundai behind the forecasts of its two Japanese rivals but it at least puts it into the same arena.
Hyundai's confidence stems partly from its partnership with LG Chem, a South Korean company that is supplying next-generation lithium ion batteries. The batteries will boost the mileage of the hybrid Sonata by as much as 70 percent over the nonhybrid version, says Hyundai research and development chief Lee Hyun-soon.