Hyundai and Kia may add entry-level SUVs in Europe to meet demand for mini-sized, high-riding cars in crowded cities.
If approved, the SUVs would be positioned below the Hyundai Kona and Kia Stonic, currently the smallest SUVs sold in the region by the two automakers.
Kia is looking at some of the brand's vehicles that are being launched in China and India to see if their platforms could be used for a European vehicle, Kia Europe Chief Operating Officer Emilio Herrera told Automotive News Europe. "We are considering launching a crossover smaller than our Stonic, although there is no firm plan," he said.
Such a vehicle "makes sense and I would love to have it," Herrera said.
Hyundai Europe also wants a mini-SUV because demand is shifting in the smallest segments to SUVs and crossovers from cars, said Thomas Schmid, the automaker's chief operating officer for the region.
If Hyundai launched a high-riding city car, it would not use the platform underpinning an SUV that will launch in India this year based on the Carlino concept, Schmid said.
Hyundai Europe would prefer a vehicle that was more of a crossover than an SUV, he said.
The vehicle would not have four-wheel-drive. "No one needs four-wheel drive in this segment," Schmid said.
The Kona has a 4wd option, while the Stonic does not.
New segment possible
Currently in Europe, only the Suzuki Jimny, which is 3650mm long, can be defined as a mini SUV, JATO Dynamics analyst Felipe Munoz said.
A new segment comprising SUVs and crossovers less than 4000mm could develop, he said. New mini-SUV entrants likely would take market share from minicars, Munoz said.
Hyundai sells the i10 minicar in Europe, while Kia sells the Picanto.
Other automakers are looking at new models to meet expected demand for mini-SUVs from people living in metropolitan areas.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Jeep brand plans to introduce a 'baby' Jeep below the Renegade small SUV by 2022, FCA said in June. It would be built in Italy and sold globally. Jeep describes the model as an "urban utility vehicle."
In the U.S., Hyundai plans to launch a crossover code-named QX positioned below the Kona in the second half.
lt will be called the Styx and will debut at the New York auto show on April 17, according to reports.
JATO's Munoz said new mini-SUV entrants might also compete with some small-segment hatchbacks, just as the current small-segment SUVs are eroding the market share of subcompact and compact cars.
European sales of small-segment SUVs increased 37 percent in the first nine months of 2018 to 1.45 million, according to JATO data, not including premium SUVs such as the Mini Countryman and Audi Q2. Sales of mainstream compact SUVs rose 20 percent in the same period.
Growth in both segments is due to the growing number of new models, Munoz said.