By Greg Bensinger/Bloomberg
New York: Hyundai Motor Co., working to grow beyond its reputation for economy cars, says it will begin selling a premium sedan in the U.S. to compete with luxury brands such as Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus in the second half of 2008.
Hyundai expects the Genesis prototype, unveiled on 4 April at the New York International Auto show, will capture sales from some Lexus models as well as DaimlerChrysler AG’s Mercedes-Benz E-Class, even when luxury vehicle sales in the U.S. fell 5.3% this year. Some models of the vehicle may cost about $35,000 (Rs 14,98,705).
The introduction comes about a month after South Korea’s largest automaker began selling a midsized sport-utility vehicle that may cost as much as $38,000, its most expensive ever. Since 1986, when it entered the U.S. market, Hyundai has been known for vehicles priced 13 to 31% below its Asian rivals.
“We think that we could take sales from premium brands, that people are ready to upgrade their Hyundais,” Steve Wilhite, the automaker’s U.S. chief operating officer, said in an interview.
In addition to the Lexus, the new rear-wheel-drive sedan will compete with Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s 5-Series vehicles and Toyota’s Avalon, among others, Wilhite said.
“We’ve done considerable research and evaluation on the possibility” of adding a separate luxury line, such as Toyota did with Lexus, Wilhite said.
Seoul-based Hyundai improved its U.S. sales by just 0.1% last year to 455,520 units, compared with a nearly 5% jump in total import sales. Hyundai expects to sell more than 500,000 vehicles in the U.S. in 2007, Wilhite said.