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Hyundai hatches new baby

Trevi fountain pen: Artist BERNIE WALSH's impression of the Trevi.

Hyundai's Excel adventure is over as its new baby hatch is expected to be called Trevi

24 Sep 2001

HYUNDAI will abandon the Excel nameplate when it launches its vital new small car here in the third quarter of 2002.

Instead, the baby hatch - captured here in an exclusive rendering by automotive artist Bernie Walsh, based on insider information - is expected to be called Trevi.

That's as in the Trevi fountain. And Hyundai Automotive Distributors (HAD) is certainly hoping the light car contender will pour forward with a flood of sales that will sail it back to the glory days of the late 1990s.

At its peak in 1998 Excel accounted for 44,018 of Hyundai's 57,219 sales, driven by a $13,990 driveaway deal.

Excel is now gone, replaced by the superior but more expensive Accent, and Hyundai's sales have slipped to 45,331 in 2000 and are down another 22 per cent to the end of August this year.

HAD chief executive CK Liew confirmed the name change last week.

"We are very likely to use Trevi," he said.

"The reason is we have spent so much money moving away from being the Excel car company.

"It would be very easy and tempting to use Excel, but we have to be more courageous than that and pursue what we believe in aggressively rather than take the line of least resistance." What HAD "believes in" is establishing Hyundai as a legitimate car brand rather than a cut-price discounter of throw-away vehicles.

The Trevi is expected to be launched here in three and five-door hatchback form, definitely with a 1.5-litre, four-cylinder engine and possibly with a 1.3 as well.

Described by one Hyundai insider as "a better looking (Volkswagen) Polo", the Trevi is tipped to be highly flexible and funky inside.

Hyundai gave a clue to the dimensions of the Trevi when it unveiled the Clix cross-over concept at Frankfurt earlier this month, which is based on the Trevi's platform. Hyundai gave the Clix's measurements as 3959mm long, 1300mm high and 1738mm wide, with a wheelbase of 2450mm.

HAD's strategy calls for Trevi to combine with Accent to give the company the light car sales grunt to drive it back over a 50,000 sales total in 2002, although a phalanx of new models means they won't have to shoulder the burden alone.

The substantially reworked EF-B Sonata is launched on Wednesday, the Lavita goes on sale in November and the Terracan 3.5-litre V6 four-wheel drive and the Tiburon sports coupe should appear in January.

A facelifted Grandeur saloon is also due in 2002, tipped to include a V6 engine boosted from 3.0 to 3.5-litres.

It is expected that a facelifted Accent in late 2002 will include an engine capacity boost from its current 1.5-litres to help differentiate it from Trevi and prevent cannibalisation.

A crucial factor in Trevi's success will be pricing, with Excel's $13,990 pricepoint being an obvious starting point, but not necessarily a driveaway price.

HAD will stick with driveaway pricing on the Accent and Elantra for at least the remainder of 2001 as it strives to recover lost sales ground. Elantra went to driveaway pricing in August while Accent driveaway pricing was approved last week.

No to a third franchise

THE challenges of developing Hyundai in Australia and his company's new partnership with Audi means Astre Australian Automotive boss CK Liew has ruled out signing up a third car franchise deal in the short term.

Instead, Mr Liew is pursuing "back-room" logistical support roles with several new car distributors in Australia, believed to include Peugeot distributor-in-waiting Sime Darby and Proton Cars Australia.

Mr Liew confirmed discussions had taken place with VW subsidiary Skoda, but he believed the Czech company's preference was to align with Volkswagen Group Australia for any Australian return.

Mr Liew cited three reasons for not pursuing another franchise in the near future.

"Number one is the range of cars being expanded within the Hyundai range. There are so many things that need to be done that will keep us busy.

"Secondly, we are still steering through the phase of working out this new relationship with Audi because they are joint-venture partners now.

"And the third thing is I think if you have limited resources, you have to make some fundamental decisions and say 'look, why don't we put the money on Hyundai rather than develop something else'."

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