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Hyundai's convertible converts push for Tiburon drop-top

Tiburon drop-top: How a Tiburon convertible could look. Graphic by NORM ROBINSON.

US, Australian distributors want Hyundai to convert the new Tiburon sports coupe to a convertible

1 Oct 2001

HYUNDAI Motor Corporation is under pressure from its US subsidiary to add a convertible version of the new Tiburon sports coupe to its constantly growing product range.

And the Australian operation, Hyundai Automotive Distributors (HAD), is weighing in with its support for the plan.

HAD general marketing manager Peter Evans said a drop-top version of the 2+2, which replaces the Coupe here in January, was looking good primarily because of the American pressure.

"When they showed us the Tiburon in Korea and we drove it in January, we asked them the question about the convertible and they said 'we are thinking about it'," Mr Evans said.

But he knows from bitter experience as a former Toyota executive that approval for manufacture of a Tiburon convertible for the US does not necessarily mean we will get such a car here.

"Whether it will happen in right-hand drive is the issue," he said.

"That was the big problem with Toyota. They made lots of left-hand drive Celica convertibles but they never made it in right-hand drive.

"But we'll be going to Korea in November and re-registering our vote. The car's too good looking and the market's too big not to do something." Meanwhile, European reports are linking Hyundai with a plan to produce a smaller two-seat roadster based on the mid-engined HCD6 concept, which appeared at the Geneva and Chicago motor shows last year.

"The Americans are keen to have a Tiburon convertible. For them the HCD6 is a bit small," Mr Evans said.

"We are halfway between Europe and America. The Europeans want something small like an MX-5 and the Americans want something bigger like a Celica convertible. We'll take both if they are available.

"If I was a betting man I'd go for Tiburon because I know the Americans would love it and they'd do the volume.

"Just like America drives Toyota, America drives HMC. You are talking of a car market that's 16-17 million units per year. We're 800,000. So they are 20 times our size. It's a wonderful market." The Tiburon coupe was unveiled to the world's media at the Frankfurt motor show this month and will have its Australian launch at the Sydney motor show, starting October 12.

It will be offered as both a 2.7-litre V6 and 2.0-litre four-cylinder and in two specification levels. The higher grade should have leather at least as an option.

Pricing for the 2.0-litre should start just below $30,000 with the V6 starting around $35,000.

HAD is bullish about its prospects of taking on and beating traditional foes like the Toyota Celica, although the Nissan 200SX is dominating the sports coupe category this year with 1492 sales to the end of August. The Celica has 807 and the Coupe 404.

Mr Evans predicts the Tiburon will enjoy big sales success initially.

"It's a fashion market - you get a big rush at the start then it falls off quite dramatically after the first six or seven months, then it settles into a steady rate," he said.

"What we're contemplating for the new car is settling into a steady rate at least twice the current steady rate.

"We believe it has the capability to be the best selling car in that market and we've done it before so it's not an idle boast or chest beating."

LaVita mini people-mover is next off the rank

HAD's next activity will be the Elantra LaVita mini people-mover which goes on sale this month.

Powered by a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder engine, the five-seat LaVita is expected to be offered in two grades with pricing starting around $22,000, while the auto is an $1800 option.

HAD labels the LaVita a EuroHatch with the sales aim being a relatively modest 200 per month.

HAD will also launch the Terracan mid-size off-roader in January in two specification grades, the higher likely to be called Highlander.

The 3.5-litre, V6-powered Terracan's pricing should start under $40,000.

A 2.9-litre common rail diesel is being considered for Australia in 2003 when the fuel quality should improve.

"The Terracan brings to the brand a whole bunch of images about ruggedness, durability and toughness that we don't currently portray through any other model in the range," HAD general marketing manager Peter Evans said.

"Ladder frame, eight cross-members, low range - all that kind of stuff.

"Pajero is currently selling 8000 units a year, Prado is selling about 6600, Pathfinder is selling 3300 and Holden Jackaroo is selling about 2800.

"I'd be happy if we could sell around the same number as the Holden Jackaroo. That would be my personal goal."

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