Hyundai's Genesis luxury brand is just getting started but already it plans to enter the plug-in hybrid market, a move that echoes the alternative-fuel strategies of BMW, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz.
The Hyundai and Genesis brands are working on multiple plug-in hybrids that will be an intermediate step before hydrogen fuel cell vehicles take hold in the coming decades, Dave Zuchowski, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said in an interview.
"Some of those [plug-in hybrids] will take the form of the Genesis side of our business," Zuchowski said. "We believe alternative-propulsion engines are going to be really important -- even more important in the luxury market than they are in the mainstream market."
Hyundai plans to have three sedans in its Genesis lineup by 2020. Initially the cars will be sold in North America, China, Korea and the Middle East, expanding into Europe and other parts of Asia as the brand's model range grows.
The approach for Genesis is similar to those of BMW, Volvo, Mercedes and Porsche, which offer plug-in hybrid variants of some core vehicles. Other luxury brands, including Cadillac, Audi and Infiniti, plan to add a cord to various models in the coming years.
Zuchowski declined to identify which Genesis vehicles would get plug-in hybrid variants.
The new brand's first vehicles will go on sale this year. The G90 is the full-size sedan formerly known as Equus; the G80 is the freshened midsize sedan that had been called Genesis. Later, a G70 compact sedan is to hit the market, followed by a pair of crossovers by the end of the decade.
Plug-in hybrids appeal to automakers for their fuel economy and because their carbon dioxide emissions are lower than those of diesels. Consumers relish them because the vehicles' internal combustion engines eliminate range anxiety. Indeed, plug-in hybrids have been a rare bright spot for green-vehicle sales in 2016, jumping 40 percent in the first quarter vs. the same period in 2015, according to Edmunds.com.
"You get a lot of the benefits of electric vehicles but with a safety net," Zuchowski said. "We think that's a wonderful midterm strategy."