Now ranked as the world’s fifth-largest automaker in conjunction with its Kia subsidiary, Hyundai is making strides to build a product line that reflects its status among the world’s top manufacturers. With the world’s first hybrid vehicle powered by advanced lithium-polymer batteries and capable of running on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) already under its belt, as well as the new 2011 Sonata Hybrid about to go on sale, Hyundai is now looking towards the next-generation of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Hyundai’s next hybrid will be based on a dedicated hybrid-electric platform and is due in 2012. It will eventually spawn a plug-in hybrid version in 2013 and both vehicles will be powered by lithium-polymer batteries.

The new dedicated hybrid will likely be built along the lines of the 2009 Hyundai Blue-Will plug-in hybrid concept but unlike rivals like the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Insight, the Hyundai is expected to be decisively sportier. The original Blue-Will concept featured a direct-injected 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine matched to a small electric motor, the latter of which could drive the vehicle exclusively up to 40 miles on a single charge of its lithium-polymer batteries.

The story doesn’t end there as Hyundai also plans to launch a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle around 2012 as well. The new model will be a mid-size minivan similar to the Mercedes-Benz R-Class.

[Inside Line]