The last time Hyundai Motor Co. sold a car in Japan was in 2009, when it pulled out after years of dismal sales. Now, South Korea’s top automaker is back, but with a twist: It’s only going to sell electric vehicles, and only online.

"We have prepared a lot, not to repeat the same mistake,” Jaehoon Chang, Hyundai’s chief executive officer, said in an interview. "We should know customers, we should know the market, with the right product and the right brand.”

Chang, 57, is counting on the push back into Japan — to be formally unveiled in Tokyo on Tuesday — to reach his goal of selling 1.7 million EVs globally in 2026, including the carmaker’s Kia and Genesis brands, a target that was recently increased from 1 million. For incumbents and new entrants, the twin forces of electrification and automation are fueling bolder moves into fresh markets that, up until now, might have seemed impenetrable.