When it comes to vehicle electrification, automakers shake out into three groups.
Leading-edge companies such as Nissan and General Motors have launched new-tech vehicles. Fast followers -- the biggest group -- will roll out EVs and plug-ins in the next few years.
Then you have the "call me when it's ready for prime time" approach. The main example is Hyundai, which has a single hybrid and no imminent plans for much beyond that in the way of electric drive.
But here's the wrinkle: Hyundai's corporate average fuel economy last month was 35.7 mpg. Hyundai markets itself as a fuel economy leader, touting its 40 mpg cars. Its recipe: Maximizing internal combustion vehicles with direct injection, aerodynamics and lightweight materials.
At a press briefing this month, John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, acknowledged that the company's strategy differs from much of the industry.
"Honestly, our focus isn't on hybrid," Krafcik said. "Our focus is on optimizing internal combustion and getting as many fuel-efficient vehicles out there, across the lineup.
"That's the way you do it. If you look at the math, if you look at how CAFE math works, volume trumps everything."
Hyundai also keeps a close watch on sticker price, seeing affordability as a key brand attribute even as it pushes into the luxury segment. In Hyundai's view, the high cost of EVs and plug-ins is an obstacle to the volume Krafcik seeks.
Brandon Ramirez, Hyundai's senior manager for product planning, says buyers of small cars, in particular, are price-sensitive: "One thing we didn't want to do is put premium features on one top-of-the-line model, and nobody buys it."