Hyundai Motor aims to boost electric vehicle sales by 60 per cent this year as it strengthens efforts to grab a bigger share of the global EV market with new models based on its own dedicated platform.

The South Korean carmaker is in early stage talks with Apple about building self-driving EVs, in a move that could dramatically shake up the highly competitive industry with the entry of the global tech group

Hyundai has earmarked 2021 as “the year of its great transformation” into a future mobility service provider, focusing on developing new technologies for electrification, urban air mobility, robotics and fuel cell systems.

Its goal of selling 160,000 EVs in 2021 follows sales of 100,000 EVs last year driven by strong demand for its Kona electric sport utility vehicle despite the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged auto demand.

“We aim to cement our position as an EV leader by expanding our line-up and product quality,” Koo Za-yong, Hyundai’s head of investor relations, told analysts on Tuesday. The carmaker had a 5 per cent share of the global EV market last year.

Hyundai, which together with affiliate Kia Motors ranks as the world’s fifth-largest carmaker, is pinning its hopes on its new Ioniq 5 EV — the first model made on its dedicated EV platform that will cut production costs and time. The Ioniq 5 will be rolled out in Europe in late March, followed by South Korea and the US.

The carmaker has been criticised for lagging behind rivals in adopting emerging technologies but is fast catching up, sealing a string of alliances with tech groups including Aptiv and Aurora for EV and self-driving technologies. Hyundai and Kia plan to introduce 23 new EV models and sell 1m units annually by 2025.

“It is a big increase but the EV sales target for this year is achievable, given the strong momentum of the company’s EV business,” said Kim Jin-woo, an analyst at Korea Investment & Securities. “EV demand remains strong with a better outlook in advanced countries.”

While many global carmakers have been forced to idle plants this year due to a shortage in chips, Hyundai has not been affected because it did not cancel any semiconductor orders even when the pandemic hammered sales and shut factories last year.

Shares in Hyundai shares fell 3.3 per cent on Tuesday after fourth-quarter profit fell short of estimates. The stock has risen more than a third this month on hopes that Apple would lend huge financial, marketing and design muscle to Hyundai’s EV ambitions via the potential alliance.

Hyundai reported net profit of Won1.38tn ($1.25bn) for the three months through December, up 78 per cent from a year earlier, lifted by strong sales of higher-margin SUVs and premium Genesis sedans. That marked a turnround from a net loss the previous quarter due to $3bn in provisioning to cover significant recalls related to engine issues. Separately, Hyundai is recalling 77,000 Kona EVs with battery cell problems.