Los Angeles -- Call it high mileage for the masses.
Hyundai unveiled the 2011 Elantra today at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It's a mid-sized car that will get 40 miles per gallon on the freeway and 29 in the city, according to North American CEO John Krafcik.
Ford sells a version of the Fiesta that hits 40 MPG and the Chevy Cruze hits 42 MPG, he admitted, but only specific models of those cars hit that figure and they are manufactured in limited numbers. Those high mileage cars also cost $2,000 to $3,000 more than standard versions of the same car, he said.
All of the Elantras will hit the 40 MPG mark. The car will start at $14,380. Four more 40 MPG cars will come out of Hyundai in 2011.
“We will have standard, eye-popping fuel economy for everyone,” he said. “We will sell more 40 MPG cars than anyone else.”
By 2025, the company’s goal is to produce cars that will get more than 50 miles per gallon. The Department of Transportation is currently mulling plans to impose standards that will require car makers to hit a fleet average of between 47 and 62 MPG. (Recently imposed standards will goose the figure to 35.5 MPG by 2016.)
If anything, the new Elantra shows that there likely is a technological path toward those higher standards.
How is Hyundai hitting its mileage marks? Partly through weight. The car relies on a high-strength steel produced by another group in the Hyundai conglomerate. (Hyundai, he said, is the only automaker with its own steel manufacturing capabilities.) It has put forward a company goal of reducing the weight of all of its cars by 10 percent.
Like Audi, Porsche and some other company execs here, a company representative said business is up despite the bleak economy. The company will sell more than 500,000 cars this year, surpassing the previous high water mark of 467,000 set in 2007. Its retail market share has increased by 63 percent.
Electrics? “They will compose a relatively small segment of production” because of high battery costs for the time being, Krafcik said.
Later on, we talked to S.S. Yang, worldwide CEO for Hyundai. He said the company has plug-in cars in development but it’s still too early to say much about their long-term plans. Hyundai is working with LG Chem, which makes batteries for both Ford’s and GM’s electric cars, as well as another company.