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Hyundai Accent looms as i20 replacement

Uncertain future: Hyundai's Australian arm is struggling to make a business case stack up for the new i20, revealed at last year's Paris motor show.

Currency issues likely to bury new Euro-sourced Hyundai i20 for Australia

Hyundai logo13 Apr 2015

HYUNDAI is set to discontinue the i20 locally in lieu of a revised and cheaper version of the existing Accent when stocks of the former dry up sometime in the next few months.

With the new-generation i20 – released in Europe late last year – produced in Turkey, Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) chief operating officer John Elsworth said it would not be cost competitive to bring it in, leaving the ageing Accent as the brand’s sole alternative in the light-car class.

A decision is expected before the middle of the year, but it is understood there are still pricing and specification hurdles that need to be cleared first.

A weak Australian dollar is not helping the new i20, while the higher level of specification the model needs to take on the Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio in Europe is also having an impact.

While the new i20 is also built at the same Indian plant as the outgoing PB model sold here, it lacks the required safety equipment to meet the five-star ANCAP crash-test rating that HMCA deems mandatory in this market.

Speaking with GoAuto at the i30 hatch launch in Sydney last week, Mr Elsworth said all was not yet lost for the i20, but pointed to the Accent as a likely replacement.

“The Accent is one of the choices that we are looking at, but we’re also looking at ways of getting the price down,” he said.

“We want to continue to sell a lot of light cars. To be out of that segment would be very challenging if we want to keep growing in Australia. So we need to offer a suite of small cars.” It appears that HMCA is still in negotiation with its South Korean parent company Hyundai Motor Company about price and specification for the Accent.

The existing RB series Active 1.6-litre manual hatch and sedan variant openers have both been priced at $16,990, plus on-road costs, since their launch in mid-2011. In contrast, the current base i20 is offered from $15,590.

It is believed that a limited number of options are available to the company, including the importation of a 1.4-litre version as used in the existing i20.

“We need to finish working out volume targets and profit targets first,” Mr Elsworth said. “A decision on the Accent will be made in the next two to three months. We are working through different scenarios with HMC… to see what can be done.

“The reality is, we are currently dealing with the Indian plant, European plant, HMC in South Korea… and it is getting to the point with the low Australian currency that there is no more room for us to move.

The loss of the i20 would be a massive blow to HMCA if it cannot find a suitably priced replacement. Despite dating back to 2009, the current model was the best-selling light car in Australia last year, shifting 14,797 units. It was also about 1500 cars clear of the second-placed Mazda2.

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