Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp., South Korea’s two largest carmakers, are stepping up their eco-friendly and luxury vehicle operations as rivals from India and China try to catch up in the global market through mergers with established players, industry watchers said Friday. The South Korean companies, flagships of Hyundai Motor Group, have become the world’s fifth-largest manufacturers with combined sales expected to reach 8 million units this year. They, however, remain on the fringes in the eco-friendly vehicles and high value-added luxury car markets that have grown the most in recent years.
Both car makers have released hybrid cars in the past, but they have not been able to wrestle buyers away from Japanese rivals like the Toyota Leaf hybrid. Hyundai released the world’s first mass-produced fuel cell electric vehicle this year, with Kia taking similar steps with the Soul electric vehicle (EV). Yet, it will take time to determine if they are a success.
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