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Hyundai to chase Lexus dream

Grand style: The Grandeur has taken Hyundai considerably upmarket.

Hyundai is considering a new luxury brand along the lines of Toyota's Lexus

Hyundai logo10 Dec 1999

By DAVID HASSALL

HYUNDAI Motor Co. is reportedly considering creating a new Lexus- style luxury car line for the US next year.

The South Korean car giant would launch the new marque with the Grandeur, which was released in Australia three months ago.

According to leading motor industry writer Paul Lienert of The Detroit News, Hyundai has given the green light to sell the Grandeur in North America for the 2001 model year, which means it will be launched about September next year.

It may be joined at the same stage by the even bigger Equus limousine, which would be a Lexus LS400 rival should the company create the new line.

"The XG Grandeur will debut as a 2001 model and may be sold under a new luxury badge that Hyundai is considering to separate it from other Hyundai products," said Jeff Schuster, the manager of production forecasting and product planning at industry analyst J.D. Power and Associates.

But a spokesman for Hyundai Automotive Distributors Australia said he would be surprised if the parent company created a new luxury brand.

"When Hyundai took over Kia, it said that Hyundai would take on the upper segments, leaving Kia the lower levels and some specialist segments, so it would go against the intelligence on brand positioning coming out of Korea," said the public affairs manager of Hyundai Australia, Mr Richard Power.

Nevertheless, it is interesting that Hyundai Australia chose not to carry the word Hyundai on the Grandeur. The only company identification on the car is the stylised 'H' logo on the boot and wheels.

Despite the imposing chrome-look grille on the nose, the Grandeur carries no insignia up front.

The Equus was launched in South Korea this year as a purely domestic model but was so well received that Mitsubishi decided to sell it in Japan as the Debonair, the top model in Mitsubishi's line-up.

This was a major feather in Hyundai's cap and a major turnaround in the relationship between the two companies as Hyundai started out by building superseded Mitsubishi models.

The Equus proved Hyundai could build top class luxury cars to Japanese standards and set the company thinking it could create a viable luxury brand in the US along the lines of Lexus.

Lexus - created to give Toyota a luxury car presence without being bound by its reputation for building solid mass-produced commuter cars - has been a huge success world-wide and now boasts a full model line-up.

Lexus recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and last week sold its one millionth vehicle in the United States - an RX 300 which will be auctioned by Christie's with the proceeds going to the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

This year has been a record year for Lexus in the US.

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