Why Hyundai Ioniq Electric Owned the Market Since Its Debut

2017 Hyundai Ioniq
Facing the Ioniq hybrid and every other electric car, Hyundai Ioniq EV dominated the Korean market | Hyundai

What does domination look like in the auto market? Everyone has different ideas about this, but we believe everyone can agree taking over 80% market share qualifies. In its fourth full month on the South Korea market, Hyundai Ioniq Electric did just that. Meanwhile, the EV outsold the hybrid model by more than three to one.

The figures, courtesy of Jose Pontes’s EV Sales blog, do not sound quite as impressive when looking at the totals. Ioniq’s EV variant sold 1,085 units in November, which would have garnered the all-new model fifth place in the U.S. However, Korea is 11th in size among world markets, and everything is relative. By this criteria, Ioniq’s thrashing of its counterparts is well worth noting.

Since it debuted in July, the EV has taken 57% of the plug-in market (2,565 of 4,464 units). Kia Soul EV, which owns second place with just 16% of the market (692 units), trailed Ioniq by 985 sales in November. Tesla still does not sell cars in Hyundai’s home market, and the policy for electric vehicle incentives is playing a considerable role in the results.

Ioniq Electric Vehicle charging
While EVs like the Ioniq and Soul EV qualify for generous incentives, Tesla Model S does not | Hyundai

Ioniq Electric costs about $11,000 more than the hybrid model in Korea, so available incentives have shifted the market for consumers. According to Reuters, EV buyers may access as much as $18,000 in government subsidies when choosing an EV over gas-powered vehicles. However, there is one strange condition: Only cars capable of charging within 10 hours on standard outlets qualify.

For that reason, a Tesla Model S buyer would not be able to access the subsidy. (The law intended to compensate for the lack of high-speed charging infrastructure.) BMW i3, Chevy Spark EV (made by GM in Korea), and Nissan Leaf join Ioniq Electric and Soul EV in qualifying. Apparently, consumers see no contest between those models and Hyundai’s ultra-efficient entry.

2017 Ioniq Electric Vehicle (EV)
Tesla and BYD have yet to introduce long-range EV models in Korea because of an outdated subsidy policy | Hyundai

Ioniq Electric delivers up to 124 miles on a full charge and travels at 136 MPGe. To date, no car on the U.S. market has matched that economy. While we expect the Ioniq EV to do well when it arrives in America early in 2017, it faces competition from Chevy Bolt EV as well as upgraded models of Volkswagen e-Golf and Ford Focus Electric. It could be a hit if priced right. But there is little competition for this car in Korea at the moment.

Tesla is not alone in feeling the burn of the outdated incentive policy. BYD, the Warren Buffett-backed Chinese company that sells more EVs than any other brand worldwide, did not bring the e6 to Korea for the same reason, Reuters reports. Korean officials told the news agency the policy would be addressed in the coming months. We wonder how many Ioniq EVs Hyundai might sell by then.

Follow Eric on Twitter @EricSchaalNY