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Hyundai Motor Reg S(HYMTF)

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Korean Automakers Quietly Dominate the Mainstream EV Market

Motley Fool - Sat Sep 10, 2022

When it comes to electric vehicles (EVs), Tesla(NASDAQ: TSLA) is the big kahuna, selling the majority of EVs in the United States. But it's by no means on its own. A lot of other carmakers are getting in on the action.

In Detroit, automakers are finally in the EV space. Ford(NYSE: F) offers the F-150 Lightning, Mustang Mach-E, and E-Transit. General Motors (NYSE: GM) sells the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV, GMC Hummer, and Cadillac Lyriq. The Cadillac Celestiq, Chevrolet Equinox EV, Chevrolet Blazer EV, and Chevrolet Silverado EV are all waiting in the wings.

Then there's Nissan(OTC: NSANY), which lost its early lead in EVs, but still sells the affordable Nissan Leaf. Volkswagen is trying its best to drum up more interest in its ID.4 crossover. The electrified future of Stellantis(NYSE: STLA) -- which includes the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram brands -- is just getting underway, with its EVs not arriving until 2024.

But with a few exceptions, such as the Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan Leaf, most EVs are pricey, costing far more than the $48,043 average price paid for a new vehicle in the U.S. as of June, according to Cox Automotive.

Yet, even as Chevrolet and other brands are about to introduce more-affordable EVs, Korean automakers Hyundai(OTC: HYMTF) and Kia have quickly come to dominate the affordable EV segment, quietly garnering a substantial number of sales in the U.S. this year. Let's see how they're succeeding.

The numbers tell the story

A casual look at EV sales figures can be misleading. Tesla sold 259,700 vehicles in the first two quarters of 2022, with Ford coming in second at 22,979. But Kia Motors America ranks third at 17,723 units and affiliated company Hyundai ranks fourth at 15,857 units. General Motors ranks fifth at 7,674 vehicles.

But here's what you might not know. Hyundai Motor Group owns 33.88% of Kia and is its largest stakeholder. Hyundai bought the automaker after it entered bankruptcy in 1997. Together, the Korean pair account for 33,323 units in the U.S., second only to Tesla. In fact, the Hyundai Ioniq 5, the first model from Hyundai's new Ioniq EV sub-brand, and the mechanically similar Kia EV6 sold 26,260 units, outselling the red-hot Mustang Mach-E by 8,585 units.

Both are built using Hyundai's E-GMP (Electric-Global Modular Platform) architecture, and share similar layouts: a single-motor base model with a 58-kWh battery pack, and a dual-motor, all-wheel-drive model with a 77.4-kWh battery pack.

Even so, the Hyundai and Kia models are hardly bargain-basement vehicles; their manufacturer suggested retail prices (MSRPs) are, for the most part, north of $40,000. Still, these vehicles are among the least expensive new EVs you can buy. And while Hyundai will be introducing a lower-priced Ioniq 3, it's not expected until 2026, according to Automotive News. But Kia is forecast to release the less expensive EV3 and EV4 in 2024.

Industry logic suggests that by capturing EV buyers now, Hyundai and Kia can build brand loyalty this year and next before competitors enter the market by 2024. But given EVs' small market share (6.1% of sales in July 2022), there's still plenty of room for other automakers to scoop up market share.

One EV maker to watch is General Motors. The company plans to expand its EV lineup with the Chevrolet Equinox EV compact SUV at a price of "around $30,000," according to GM. If eligible for the full $7,500 federal EV tax credit, its starting price would be less than $23,000. Similarly, the 2023 Chevrolet Bolt EV, with an MSRP starting at $25,600, would cost $18,100 before destination charges, taxes, and options. This could make the brand a low-cost leader in the U.S., locking in buyers as they climb the GM product line into pricier vehicles.

Ultimately, monthly sales results will reveal which company is snaring the most entry-level buyers, a key to sustainable growth. That said, Hyundai's stock is down during that same time frame, trading at a P/E of about 4.5. That's low, even for an auto stock. Given Hyundai's transformation into an EV player, and the stock's price decline this year, interested investors should watch for a bottom before taking the plunge. This stock could have some upside in the future.

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Larry Printz has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Tesla. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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