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Hyundai needs ute to challenge Mazda: Elsworth

Carrying the load: Hyundai Australia would love to add a utility to its light commercial vehicle range, which currently comprises only the successful iLoad van.

Pick-up ‘not on the radar’, but Hyundai Australia still pressing the case for LCV

11 Nov 2013

HYUNDAI’S Australian arm continues to rattle the head office cage in South Korea about the need for a light truck, without which it will have difficulty challenging Japanese rival Mazda as Australia’s leading full-line importer.

Although murmurs from dealers suggest that a pick-up is firmly on the cards, Hyundai Motor Company Australia chief operating officer John Elsworth told GoAuto that no such vehicle was on the product planning radar.

He said Australia and other markets such as North America would welcome a pick-up with open arms, but the wait continued.

“It is a theoretical discussion because there isn’t one on the radar,” he said.

“But at every product forum, I can tell you, there is a very loud request from Hyundai Australia for a pick-up.” This year, Hyundai Australia has overtaken Mazda in the passenger car market, which includes sedans, wagons, sports cars and SUVs, 56,437 to 54,313 at the end of October.

This places the Korean company in second spot behind passenger market leader Toyota (82,664), and even ahead of Holden (54,315).

But without a ute to rival Mazda’s BT-50, Hyundai will find it difficult to challenge Mazda for outright second place in the market.

Currently, Mazda leads Hyundai by more than 5000 units so far this year, 78,252 to 72,599. Mazda’s BT-50 accounts for more than 11,000 of its sales so far in 2013, while Hyundai’s lone LCV, the iLoad van, has score 3273 sales.

Mr Elsworth said his company did not spend a lot of time thinking about overtaking Mazda.

“We worry about meeting our own sales goals set by head office, and believe me, that’s difficult enough,” he said.

“But yes, it would be difficult to overtake them without a pick-up.” Former Hyundai Australia chief executive officer Edward Lee – now HMC’s vice-president in charge of international sales – told Automotive News earlier this year that the company was studying the pick-up proposal “very hard”.

He said one difficulty was whether the vehicle would be a full-size pick-up like those favoured in the US, or a smaller one-tonner favoured in other markets such as Australia.

But Mr Lee cautioned that a pick-up was not a priority for Hyundai.

Whichever way it goes – and pundits say a Hyundai pick-up is just a matter of time – a light truck with Hyundai badges is not likely in the next two years, with many betting on a 2017 launch date.

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