Sales of electric vehicles jump 27.3 pct on-year in 2014

Sales of pure electric and hybrid vehicles jumped 27.3 percent on-year in the first five months of 2014, reflecting growing consumer demand for eco-friendly cars, a report by a local automotive think tank said Sunday.

Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids that use both conventional combustion engines and battery power reached 12,792 units, which is a meaningful increase from 10,045 green cars sold in January-May period of last year, the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA) said.

Domestic sales of eco-friendly cars that began in 2005 reached 96,744 units as of late last month, with the number to surpass the 100,000 mark in the near future, it said.

In particular, KAMA said sales of EVs reached 208 units till May of this year, up more than two-fold from 89 cars sold a year earlier. It said EVs accounted for 1.7 percent of all green cars sold in the country so far in 2014, from 0.9 percent tallied for last year.

By manufacturer, Kia Motors Corp. sold 121 Soul EV and Ray EVs, followed by 69 SM3 Z.E. made by Renault Samsung Motors Co. GM Korea Co., which sells vehicles under the Chevrolet badge, sold 18 Spark EVs.

KAMA said that with cars like the BMW 13 and Nissan Leaf to arrive at dealerships in the second half, sales of electrified vehicles are expected to rise down the road.

The latest report, also showed sales of hybrid cars helped by the launch of the Grandeur and K7 hybrids rose 26.4 percent on-year to 12,584 units. Grandeur, sold as the Azera in the U.S., is made by Hyundai Motor Co., while the K7 is the local name for Kia’s Cadenza fullsize sedan.

The Grandeur hybrid posted average sales exceeding 1,000 units per month and made up 17 percent of total Grandeur sales.

Taking into consideration the launch of the Sonata hybrid based on the seventh-generation midsize sedan planned for later in the year and the introduction of a plug-in hybrid set for next year by Hyundai Motor, sales of hybrids should lead the green car market for the foreseeable future.

Industry sources added once the Tucson ix fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) reach consumers, the local market will be contested by EVs, hybrids and FCEVs.

Among import cars, sales of the Lexus ES300h reached 1,578 units in the January-May period, making it one of the more popular hybrids on the market today.

“The overall market for eco-friendly cars is not big at the moment, yet it is growing steadily,” an industry source said. He predicted that demand could pick up pace once the 100,000 mark is reached and when there is greater infrastructure for such cars.