Editor Sirish Chandran spent time with Hyundai Motor India MD & CEO Y K Koo in Turkey, behind the wheel of the Hyundai Kona. In course of the conversation Koo confirmed that the Hyundai Kona will come to India in the June 2019, stealing a march over arch rival Maruti Suzuki to launch a full-electric car in India. The Hyundai Kona EV will be assembled in India from CKD kits. Before that, in April 2019, the company will launch their Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza rivalling compact-SUV code-named QXi. India will be the world’s first market for the QXi that will also take on the Tata Nexon, Ford EcoSport and Honda WR-V. The SUV activities of 2019 will also include the face-lifted Hyundai Tucson. And to get Hyundai Creta customers to upgrade within the family Hyundai India will manufacture the next generation Tucson in India, an SUV that will also come with three-row seating. Here are key highlights from the conversation.
Sirish Chandran: When will the Hyundai Kona EV come to India?
Y K Koo: In the second half of the next year, around June or July 2019. The Kona will come only as an EV. It is more premium than the Creta. The Kona SUV is very popular in the Korean, European and American markets where we are not selling the Creta. We have two kinds of batteries, 40kW and 60kW but the 60kW battery is more expensive. So we want to bring the economy version. Our Kona EV is the latest product, after one time charging, the driving distance is more than 345km.
SC: There won’t be any petrol or diesel variants of the Kona at all?
YKK: We have the Creta which is more than enough.
SC: The Kona EV will be assembled in India?
YKK: Yes, it’s a CKD.
SC: And what volumes are you looking at?
YKK: We’re looking at less than 1000 units. We plan to showcase it in 10 to 15 cities and through select dealers. And, if the state gives us any benefits or incentives on the Kona EV, it will be even better.
SC: What is the price that you’re looking at for the Kona EV?
YKK: Expect it to be priced between Rs 25 to 30 lakh. That’s why we’re asking the government for incentives. If we’re bringing in new technology with latest EV products like the Kona, the government should consider giving us some benefits. For example reduce the import duty [on CKD kits], which they increased from 10 to 15% after the Union Budget. And 10% GST reduction. We’re asking for consideration from the government and kind support in 3 key areas. 1) Reduce the CKD import duty 2) GST 3) Continuous incentives. But we request the government to motivate the manufacturers. Benefits and investments are needed to introduce new technology. But we need motivation to manufacture. So, all the global leaders participated at the Global Mobility Summit to request the government for support.
SC: You were first planning to bring the Ionic, what happened to that?
YKK: When Hyundai Motor India conducted the survey to see which was the right EV product, the sedan or the SUV. Almost 75% of the people preferred an EV SUV. So that’s how we made the decision.
SC: There is more SUV action planned for Hyundai in India?
YKK: QXi (code-name for the Vitara Brezza rivalling compact SUV) will arrive in April 2019. It’s an entirely new platform exclusively for Hyundai Motor India and the world premier will be here as well.
SC: When will the Tucson face-lift come to India?
YKK: The facelift we are putting in the second half for next year, after the Kona EV. We have a very strong SUV line up. QXi, Creta, Tuscon and later we will have the all-new Tuscon as well which will be put into manufacturing. Every month we’re selling more than 10,000 Cretas which is a huge record. So, every year we have 1.2 lakh Creta customers. In the last year almost one lakh people bought the Creta. So, in 5 years, Creta has seen 5.6 lakh customers. What is the next generation for them? It’ll be the Tucson. That’s why we have made the decision to reveal manufacturing for full model change Tucson. There will be a seven seater variant also.
SC: Do you have enough capacity in Chennai plant for all the expansion?
YKK: The main focus [at Chennai plant] is efficiency and UPH [unit production per hour] along with product quality and more production. Right now UPH is 53 to 58, and we want to touch 67. Right now plant capacity is 7 lakh units and it will go up to 7.5 lakh units.
Also [export markets] in Asia, Latin America and some markets in Africa, they want to change from the imported CBUs to CKD business to reduce the import duty and protect their business. We export CBU, say 50,000 and we can use this space for another product in the domestic market. If [Indian] government eases the regulations, we can bring in anther 30,000 CKDs [of a new product] for which we have the space. So adding the numbers, 80,000 [more] units can be produced.
SC: Who do you see as Hyundai’s biggest competitor in India?
YKK: Of course Maruti. I told many times that volume is not everything. It’s one factor we cannot fight. Their production capacity is 1.8 million, ours is 7 lakh. But my strategy and aim is different. Market leadership means not only the volume, but value for the brand. Value for the customers’ expectations. The value for quality. That is my objective. That’s why last year were number one in customer sales and service after 20 years. We are the only player to have five ICOTY brands.