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Hyundai is Going All-In on SUVs

Confirms hydrogen fuel cell, all-electric Kona subcompact premiering early 2018

SEOUL, Korea — At the launch of the Kona subcompact at the Hyundai Motorstudio outside of Seoul, the Korean automaker revealed major plans to expand its SUV portfolio. Executives touched on Hyundai's intentions to have a full suite of SUVs, which will include a small A-segment model to slot in below Kona, as well as a large E-segment SUV to be positioned above the Santa Fe.

The Kona is arriving not a moment too late. Without a substantial portfolio to compete outside of its small-car lineup, Hyundai has been struggling as of late amidst the boom in crossover and SUV sales. Hyundai fired its U.S. CEO Dave Zuchowski back in December, by many accounts for failing to meet internal sales targets. With the Kona finally on the horizon, it could be the beginning of an about-face for the Korean automaker.

While the Kona will be targeting Millennials and those with active lifestyles in particular, Hyundai realizes it needs to follow the larger market trends of the world toward crossovers, after falling behind other global automakers. Executives also noted that along with this product offensive will be a continued commitment to plug-in hybrid, all-electric, and hydrogen fuel-cell powertrains. There will be as many as 31 new models by 2020, in total.

By 2020 Hyundai plans to offer more than 14 Korean cars with either electrification or fuel-cell, with a commitment to hydrogen infrastructure and improved battery capacity. "No longer are the days where we just focus on a good car and good quality, but also good mobility, clean mobility, and connected mobility," said Hyundai vice chairman Chung Eui-Sun.

Confirming earlier rumors, this strategy will begin with the Kona. Hyundai will add an all-electric Kona set to begin production in early 2018 with at least 242 miles of range. That would roughly equal that Chevrolet Bolt's 238 miles while considerably exceeding the Hyundai Ioniq Electric's 124 miles. For now this model is confirmed only for Korea, and Hyundai isn't saying if it'll come to the U.S. A hydrogen fuel-cell electric car will also launch in the beginning of 2018 for the Korean market.

In terms of autonomy there are big efforts in the works, with testing already underway using an Ioniq and Level 4 autonomy tech. Hyundai stresses though there are still big hurdles to leap in the space, including the current lack of compatibility with current infrastructure as well as extremely high standards for safety.