Hyundai is one of the last major automakers still clinging to the idea of traditional vehicles and weird hydrogen-powered cars. But it now seems that Hyundai is reversing its attitude. In just one week, the company appears to have completely restructured itself and its subsidiaries to focus on electrification.
On December 17th, Hyundai promoted 203 employees to senior executives. It also replaced the head of its R&D division and its lead designer, indicating a major shift in company leadership. This new leadership seems to be pushing the automaker toward EVs, as it has apparently stopped combustion engine development and paused work on the hydrogen-powered Genesis vehicle.
While Hyundai hasn’t confirmed these stories, The Korea Economic Daily has shared some internal emails sent by the new R&D head, Park Chung-kook, to several thousand employees:
Now, it is inevitable to convert into electrification. Our own engine development is a great achievement, but we must change the system to create future innovation based on the great asset from the past.
If these emails are real, then Hyundai is converting its combustion engine development plants into EV research facilities, which may produce electric powertrains, batteries, and other components for electric cars. A small team of employees will continue to modify combustion engines, but most Hyundai employees who were working on traditional cars are now racing to build EVs.
But aside from the recent Ioniq 5 release, Hyundai doesn’t have much experience with EVs. So, what’s with the change of heart? It seems that new management sees the writing on the wall—internal combustion engines are on the way out. The automaker’s home country, South Korea, has a climate plan that will ban the sale of traditional cars in 2030, and other countries are following suit. If Hyundai refuses to give up on gas guzzlers, it will have a hard time selling cars.
Additionally, Hyundai is knee-deep in a nasty combustion engine recall. Over a decade’s worth of Hyundai and Kia engines are at risk, and this dilemma may have convinced the automaker’s new leadership to abandon traditional engines as soon as possible. (As for those hydrogen fuel cell cars, Hyundai can’t pay to build a global hydrogen infrastructure network on its own.)
We hope that reports are true and that Hyundai is fully committing to EVs. Hyundai and Kia, its subsidiary, make some of the best low-cost vehicles in the world, and there’s a good chance that these carmakers could manufacture EVs that are genuinely affordable.