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Frankfurt show: Mini-SUV a high priority for Hyundai

HEDs up: Hyundai's small SUV edges closer but the HED-6 concept is the only indication of what it might look like.

Hyundai Europe boss says a sub-ix35 SUV is on the table, but details scarce

10 Sep 2013


HYUNDAI Motor Company senior vice-president and COO of its European division, Alan Rushforth, says the development of a sub-ix35 micro-SUV sits “fairly high” on the company’s list of priorities, but would not be drawn on when we might expect to see it.

With its rapidly growing model line-up, the absence of a Hyundai B-segment crossover to rival the Ford EcoSport and Holden Trax is becoming conspicuous in its absence.

These light SUVs are one of the fastest-growing model categories in Australia – up 16.5 per cent this year – and the trend is echoed in many international markets.

In an interview with GoAuto at the Frankfurt motor show this week, Mr Rushforth said – without going into specifics – that Hyundai was making moves to capitalise on this growth, but admitted the brand would arrive “a little later in that segment” than many key rivals.

“I can’t tell you exactly when you’ll see it, but I can say it’s under evaluation,” he said.

“It’s clearly a growing model segment and … it sits fairly high in terms of model opportunities for us.

“It may well be we’re a little later in that segment … I think that segment is still developing and not mature, but what’s different these days is that segments are populated with competitive vehicles much sooner than was the case five or six years ago.”

Mr Rushworth said popular new segments such as light SUVs were becoming populated at a more rapid rate than they would have been even a decade ago, and this posed its own unique set of challenges.

Australia, for instance, will get a spate of such vehicles over the next 12 months, with the just-launched Holden Trax to be joined soon by the Ford EcoSport, Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008.

Volkswagen has also shown its hand with the Taigun concept unveiled at the Sao Paolo motor show late last year.

“The economics of that segment are probably not as lucrative as the economics of the C-segment (small) SUV were five years ago,” Mr Rushworth said.

“It will fill up quicker, it’s a lot more competitive, and it’s a lot easier for customers to move out of B- and C-segment passenger cars now, a lot more cross-fertilisation.”

Hyundai’s sister brand Kia has pulled the covers of a concept baby SUV called the Niro at the Frankfurt motor show this week. Like the Niro, any Hyundai mini-SUV would be designed in Europe at its German headquarters, Mr Rushforth said.

“The design would certainly originate from our European team under Peter Schreyer,” he said.

The expected eventual production model would be based on the architecture that underpins the new i10 light car – a new version of which premieres at the Frankfurt show this week – or could be derived from the next-generation i20 due in late 2014.

Therefore, it seems unlikely that any such vehicle will appear on the roads until 2015.

Hyundai is becoming an increasingly major player in other parts of Australia’s booming SUV market this year, with its larger (but still compact) ix35 up 61 per cent year to date and dominating its segment. Sales of the new Santa Fe are also up 58 per cent YTD.

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