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Hyundai moving back into Japanese market with online EV sales

By Kim Hye-ran & Kim Tae-gyu, UPI News Korea
Hyundai plans to sell its midsize electric SUV Ioniq 5 online in Japan beginning in May.  Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor
Hyundai plans to sell its midsize electric SUV Ioniq 5 online in Japan beginning in May.  Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor announced it will again move into the Japanese market 12 years after leaving due to disappointing sales.

CEO Chang Jae-hoon said Tuesday that this time around, the Seoul-based company would embrace a new strategy of selling electric vehicles online.

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Hyundai sold just 15,000 passenger cars in Japan between 2001 and 2009.

'In the Japanese market, we hope to help the country achieve carbon neutrality by providing zero-emission vehicles like fuel-cell cars and electric vehicles," Chang said at an online press conference in Tokyo.

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Hyundai plans to take orders in May for two models of the Nexo SUV fuel-cell vehicle and the Ioniq 5 midsize crossover electric car. Deliveries will start in July.

Japanese consumers can make orders through Hyundai Motor's website or via a mobile app.

Hyundai Motor was not the only overseas brand that faced dismal sales in Japan, where customers show a great preference for domestic brands like Toyota and Honda.

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Of some 5 million cars sold annually in Japan, up to 90% are from these two brands.

"Japan's retail costs are notoriously high in the automotive market. Hence, it appears to be a good strategy to go online with electric vehicles just as Tesla did," Daelim University automotive Professor Kim Pil-soo told UPI News Korea.

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"Japan has good infrastructure for electric cars and fuel-cell vehicles. I think Hyundai Motor's tactics will work this time around. It can capture a decent market share," he said.

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When asked about the volatile relations between Japan and South Korea, Kim said customers care more about quality than politics or diplomacy.

In July 2019, Japan put export restrictions on key semiconductor materials to South Korea, which houses the world's top two memory chipmakers, Samsung Electronics and SK hynix.

The Japanese government adopted the measure after South Korea's top court ordered Japanese companies in 2018 to compensate Korean victims of forced labor during World War II.

The move prompted South Koreans to carry out a nationwide boycott of Japanese products.

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