(ATTN: ADDS Hyundai Motor executive's comment on Genesis brand in 14-15 paras; Volkswagen director's remarks at bottom; CHANGES photos)
By Choi Kyong-ae
BUSAN, June 2 (Yonhap) -- Participating carmakers in this year's Busan International Motor Show have something in common amid the lingering impact of Volkswagen AG's diesel emissions scandal: environmentally friendly vehicles.
In the biennial motor show, which opened Thursday and will continue through June 12 at the BEXCO convention hall in Busan, 453 kilometers south of Seoul, most of the 25 domestic and imported carmakers came up with a reinforced lineup with hybrid or pure-electric models or with a plan to add such models to their lineups.
On top of eco-friendly cars, Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea's dominant carmaker, also outlined its plan to develop the luxury Genesis lineup as well as the high-performance 'N' lineup. Imported carmakers which have focused on selling sedans in Korea came with their sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) to absorb a rising local demand for premium SUVs.
"Consumer interest in diesel-powered cars is cooling down after the recent 'dieselgate' involving Volkswagen AG, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp.," Hyundai Motor Co. Vice Chairman Kwon Moon-sik said during the Media Gala Dinner held at BEXCO on Wednesday evening.
As governments are moving to adopt stringent regulations on diesel cars, the demand for "fuel-efficient but less-polluting" vehicles will grow bigger. To meet stricter regulations, carmakers will have to develop more eco-friendly models, said Kwon, who is in charge of research and development at Hyundai Motor Group.
For example, the Indian government will not register any new diesel taxis while allowing all existing diesel taxis in Delhi to operate in the national capital until their permits expire. The U.S. aims to put more than 3 million zero-emissions vehicles on the roads by 2025, he said.
The Korean government also plans to announce its regulatory measures against diesel cars early next month. Diesel cars emit a great deal of nitrogen oxide, one of the main causes of fine dust which could harm people's lungs.
Of the country's five carmakers, Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors Corp. and GM Korea Co. looked aggressive in the eco-friendly drive.
In Busan, Hyundai introduced the Ioniq gasoline hybrid and Ioniq pure-electric models, which are developed to take on its archrival Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius. Kia released the plug-in hybrid version of the K5 midsize sedan in a world premiere and the plug-in Telluride SUV concept.
Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors, which together form the world's fifth-largest carmaker by sales, are targeting to launch 28 eco-friendly vehicles that include six pure-electric cars by 2020.
Hyundai Motor didn't stop there.
To beef up its independent brand Genesis lineup, Hyundai unveiled the G80, the next-generation model of the existing Genesis luxury sedan, in a global debut Thursday. The flagship model will go on sale in July in the domestic market, it said.
It will absorb the large Grandeur sedan into the Genesis lineup next year, under the new name of G70. The EQ900 upper-large sedan, or the G90, domestically launched in November, will advance to the U.S. market in the third quarter, a Hyundai spokesman said.
Asked if the Genesis brand can take off as a luxury brand, Hyundai Motor Senior Vice President Manfred Fitzgerald said, "We have a very clear target and focused on entering into this luxury car market than being a true competitor there."
The Genesis series started with G90 and it is followed by G80 unveiled in Busan and will be followed by G70 and other vehicles. It will help build up the brand, said Fitzgerald in charge of the Genesis strategy.
In addition to the eco-friendly and luxury Genesis lineup, Hyundai is adding high-performance cars to its portfolios. Under the 'N' brand, it will launch its first high-performance model based on the i30 hatchback initially in Europe next year.
On Thursday, it introduced the Hyundai N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo high-performance concept. As Hyundai's high-performance models are born in Namyang and horned at Nürburgring, they carry N in their project names. Hyundai has a research lab in Namyang, Gyeonggi Province and tests its vehicles in Germany's Nürburgring race track.
GM Korea, which is 76.9 percent owned by General Motors Co., has introduced the Volt, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, as it sees the car's big growth potential here amid growing concerns about pollutants from diesel-powered vehicles.
On Wednesday night, GM Korea held a media event, dubbed "GM Premiere Night 2016," to introduce its Volt and Camaro sports car a day before the auto show opened.
"The two models will go on sale in the domestic market later this year. They will be produced in the U.S. and shipped to Korea," a GM Korea spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Renault Samsung Motors Co., an 80.9 percent-owned unit of French carmaker Renault S.A., came up with its all-new SUV QM6 to meet local customers' growing appetite for SUVs. The QM6, fully revamped from the QM5 SUV, will be produced at its Busan plant for export starting late this year.
Ssangyong Motor Co. didn't participate in Busan's motor show in 2014 or 2016 due to space allocation problems at BEXCO and the lack of new models.
This year, foreign carmakers such as BMW Korea, Volkswagen Korea and Ford Korea built their exhibition booths inside and outside BEXCO to further showcase their products to customers. And the exhibition space allotted to imported automakers reached 11,700 square meters, bigger than the 10,250 square meters given to the country's five carmakers, according to the motor show's organizing committee.
To take advantage of growing demand for premium SUVs, imported carmakers such as Maserati GB, Bently, Jaguar Land Rover Ltd. have launched their first SUVs, the Levante, the Bentayga and the F-Pace, respectively, in Korea.
"Bentley and MAN Truck & Bus Korea are two major newcomers in the Busan motor show, as Korea is still a growing market for foreign carmakers," Ahn Jae-young, a committee spokesman, said. In Korea, 7 out of 10 cars on the roads carry the emblem of Hyundai or Kia.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen Korea didn't hold a press conference on Thursday. The German carmaker has suffered a worsening brand image globally after it admitted last year that it had deceived regulators about how much its diesel cars were polluting the air.
But Volkswagen Korea Managing Director Thomas Kuehl said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency that Volkswagen Korea will recall the vehicles with the controversial software installed on them to cheat on emissions testing if the South Korean government approves a revised software submitted by the German carmaker.
Early this year, Volkswagen Korea submitted the overhauled software to the Ministry of Environment after it admitted last year that it had deceived regulators about how much its diesel cars were polluting the air.
"The software is delivered to the ministry and they are now checking. When they (the revised software) are approved, we are getting into recall (the cars mated with the cheating software and sold in Korea). (Then) we will start to earn back trust (here)," Kuehl said. The interview was held on the sidelines of the Busan International Motor Show.
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