Thu, Sep 08, 2005 - Page 11 News List

Automakers see growth in diesel vehicle segment


Soaring crude oil prices have prompted consumers to consider diesel-powered automobiles over gasoline-powered ones, generating growth in the segment, automakers said yesterday.

"Sales of our Hyundai Trajet exceeded our initial target after being launched here in May," an official from Hyundai Motor Co said on condition of anonymity.

The Hyundai Trajet, the first diesel sport utility vehicle the company has launched in the local market, sells for about NT$900,000 (US$27,600). The firm sold 665 units of the model in the past four months, nearly 200 more than its original goal of 480 units.

The company is confident it will sell a total of 1,200 units by December, the official said, adding that the market will remain strong next year.

Another vendor, Ford Lio Ho Motor Co (福特六和), Taiwan's fourth biggest automaker and a distributor of Ford cars, also sees opportunities in the diesel-vehicle segment and plans to unveil its first model next year.

"We are now studying the possibility of manufacturing our diesel cars locally and hope to introduce them to buyers by the third quarter of next year," said Joanna Kao (高瑾馨), the firm's brand manager.

According to Kao, public acceptance of diesel vehicles has been rising in recent years, as diesel engines are more environmentally friendly and reduce fuel costs by 30 percent compared to gasoline engines.

However, she said that expansion of the market will be limited because there are only a handful of models available. Ford Lio Ho thus intends to bet on the segment as the prospects look good, especially for business-use vehicles and cabs, she said.

Ford Lio Ho president Jeffrey Shen (沈英銓) said in June that the company plans to adopt diesel engines for its Focus and Metrostar sedans next year, and may introduce a hybrid Escape sport utility vehicle, priced at under NT$2 million per unit, in the meantime.

Bucking the trend, Land Rover Taiwan launched a gasoline-based luxury sport utility vehicle (LSUV) yesterday in the local market.

Dubbed Range Rover Sport, the vehicle comes with a price tag of over NT$4 million.

"The LSUV market this year will remain flat compared with last year, with sales for the first seven months down 10 percent over same period of last year," Chen Li-che (陳立哲), Land Rover's general marketing manager, said on the sidelines of the launch.

Despite rising fuel prices and inflation, the company has sold around 500 units of its models to date, and "is on track to reach the initial target of 700 units by the year's end," according to Chen.

The release of the Range Rover Sport will help contribute to the target, as 40 of the 80 units allocated to the local market were sold last month before the formal launch, Martin Baker, the company's general manager, said.

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