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Yulon to keep driving toward goal of 100-percent electric car

TAIPEI -- Yulon Group, one of Taiwan's leading automakers, said that it will not give up efforts to develop purely electric cars, although it admitted that the industry is in its early stages and needs time to make its mark in the global market.

To appeal to buyers in China and the United States, Yulon will continue to try to develop hybrid cars and if it succeeds in actually bringing such a vehicle to the market, it will use it as a stepping stone into the purely battery-powered car business in the future, a Yulon official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official made the remarks after his company was criticized by a lawmaker who said Yulon has failed to try its best to roll out electric cars in the past three years, despite being granted large subsidies by the government to do so. Chao Tien-lin, a legislator of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, expressed doubt over Yulon's efforts in electric car development. Chao said the government injected about NT$5 billion (US$168 million) over the past three years for electric car development, with Yulon and its affiliates the principal recipients. The figure was rebutted by Yulon, which said the figure was actually more like NT$2 billion.

According to Chao, Yulon produced only 84 electric prototypes in the three-year period, far below market expectations.

Chao said the Ministry of Economic affairs has planned to invest NT$9.6 billion through 2016 in a bid to manufacture as many as 100,000 cars that are completely powered by batteries.

He cited local media reports as saying that Yulon CEO Kenneth Yen noted that his group has had no choice but to enter the hybrid car business since the global car market has recently been threatened by high fuel prices. Chao said that since Yulon has no intention of developing battery-powered cars, the government should stop its subsidies to the group.

In response, Yulon officials said that hybrid car development now serves as a transitional stage to the pure electric car development and that the group is simply doing what its counterparts around the world are doing.

The Yulon official said the group generally spends NT$10 billion to develop a new model and that the government's financial aid is a mere drop in the ocean.

The Yulon official also noted that it is not the principal recipient of the government funds and expressed regret over Chao's accusation, adding that the government provides subsidies not only to car makers but also to local governments for electric car development.

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