More stories related to Chicago Auto Show CHICAGO – Hyundai Motor America shows its Portico cross/utility vehicle, giving plenty of indication that the body style and its hybrid powertrain may be in the auto maker’s near-term plans.

The vehicle, which debuted here at the Chicago Auto Show, rides on an undisclosed platform carrying an all-wheel-drive hybrid system developed by Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. engineers in South Korea.

The auto maker launches a hybrid version of the Hyundai Getz B-segment car for other markets in 2006, HMA Vice President-Product and Strategic Planning John Krafcik says, and the U.S. is seriously being considered for a hybrid in the future. (See related story: Hyundai America Wants Scion-Fighter, Hybrid Models)

Krafcik says the AWD setup is particularly well suited for the U.S. because it could accommodate a front-wheel-drive vehicle without the traditional hardware that comes with AWD vehicles.

“One of the reasons we like this hybrid concept is it is a way to get AWD without having a driveshaft going through the center of the vehicle, which kind of spoils some of the interior flexibility.”

Hyundai Portico seats six.

In the Portico, an 83-hp rear electric motor provides propulsion to the rear wheels, while Hyundai’s Lambda V-6 powers the front axle. An additional 136-hp motor supplies more power to the front, allowing the vehicle to run on battery power alone, much like other hybrids already on sale in the U.S. market.

Krafcik says the AWD system “would not be an off-road type of thing. It would be more like an all-weather (system). In fact, it might be the kind of thing that you would only have capability up to certain speeds, say 25 or 35 mph (40-56 km/h).”

He says Hyundai potentially would call it “e-all-wheel drive.”

If the decision is made to build the concept Portico 6-seat CUV, it would complement Hyundai’s forthcoming minivan that enters production in November and on sale in the U.S. in first-quarter 2006, Krafcik says.

The Portico is billed by Hyundai as a roomy people hauler, with three rows of seating that can be staggered into various configurations. The interior is meant to be upscale and scenic with a panoramic roof. The exterior, a departure from current Hyundai cues, “delivers a feeling of strength and substance,” Hyundai officials say.

jstoll@primediabusiness.com