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Friday, February 12, 2010

Kia to introduce hybrid to US market in 2010

Kia plans to introduce its first hybrid vehicle to the United States by the end of the year, officials for the South Korean automaker said on Wednesday.

"It will be here before the end of the year and will be available to consumers not just fleets," said Alex Fedorak, Kia's director of communications.

Fedorak was unable to say how closely the upcoming hybrid sedan would resemble a concept vehicle called the Ray which is currently being displayed at the Chicago auto show.

"I haven't been briefed on all the details," he told AFP during a press preview.

The small but growing US market for vehicles with alternative powertrains has until now been dominated by Japanese automakers Toyota and Honda and domestic latecomers General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

Kia officials said they were pushing to polish the automaker's green credentials with the sleek, aerodynamic Ray concept car that features a plug-in hybrid powertrain developed with fellow South Korean automaker Hyundai.

"Being green doesn't have to be an obvious statement anymore," said Peter Schreyer, the chief design officer for Kia's US-unit.

"The Kia Ray exemplifies a viable blend of modern, eco-minded features for today's environmentally-conscious consumers."

The Ray was designed for maximum efficiency, using clean, flush surfaces which end in a slightly high deck lid for reduced drag.

Touch-screen controls, drive-by-wire steering, "cool-glazing" solar glass and a lithium-polymer battery hint at the technology in Kia's future.

Ray's electric motor is designed to reach driving distances of more than 80 kilometres with a single charge. The sedan has a fuel economy rating of more than 1.16 litres per 100 kilometres and a total range of 746 miles.

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