Hyundai? Luxury? Korean automaker to introduce upscale, rear-drive car in U.S. in 2007
JAMES B. TREECE | Automotive News
Posted Date: 5/3/05
Hyundai Motor Co. will introduce a rear-wheel-drive luxury car in the United States in 2007 to test the waters for launching a luxury brand.
Pickups and sports cars are lower priorities for the Korean automaker, Hyundai's Korean executives said during the Seoul motor show here last week.
After launching the luxury car, "We will decide whether or not to launch a separate brand," said Kim Dong Jin, Hyundai's vice chairman and co-CEO.
He said Hyundai has a number of issues to settle. For example, the automaker may offer franchises in a new brand only to existing Hyundai dealers, or to dealers who currently do not sell Hyundais.
Kim says a luxury car is a "higher priority" for Hyundai than a pickup. A luxury car would "improve our brand image" in ways that a pickup would not, he says.
But U.S. executives have stressed repeatedly that they would prefer to get a large pickup before luxury vehicles. Hyundai Motor hopes to sell 1 million units annually in the United States in 2010. Hyundai and affiliate Kia sold a total of 688,670 units in the United States in 2004.
Hyundai sells no rear-drive car now.
A spate of upcoming vehicle redesigns should succeed in building up the Hyundai image, "then naturally, a customer wants a luxury car from Hyundai," said Brandon Yea, director of the marketing strategy team in the Hyundai and Kia corporate marketing division. "That's when we'll launch a luxury brand."