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Hyundai set to drop ‘i’ nomenclature

Naming rights: Hyundai’s top-selling small car will retain the i30 nameplate into its next generation in Australia, but the Korean auto giant is moving back towards individual model names as a global directive.

Poor Euro, US response sees Hyundai rethink ‘i’ model names, despite Aussie success

14 Jul 2016

HYUNDAI Motor Co Australia (HMCA) chief operating officer Scott Grant has revealed that the South Korean car-maker is planning to completely dispense with its ‘i’ nomenclature across the world in favour of individual model names – a move that could eventually wipe Australia’s current top-selling car, the i30, from local dealerships.

He also confirmed that there was no replacement in sight for the other remaining i-branded passenger car line in Australia – the i40 mid-size sedan and wagon.

While the ‘i’ branding strategy has resonated well with Australian buyers, Mr Grant told GoAuto at the launch of the i30 SR Series II in Sydney this week that the nomenclature had not been successful in other, more influential markets such as Europe, the United States and its Korean home market.

He said the i30 name would be retained into the next generation due for release here next year, but as a global policy the company was continuing to move away from the ‘i’ branding.

“What we have been told is the ‘i’ series, which has been successful in Australia and which researches very well here with consumers and did a great job for us, is not going to be adopted globally,” he said.

“It hasn’t been successful in Europe, Americans don’t like it and they’re big markets dictating direction so globally it’s unlikely the ‘i’ concept will survive.” The South Korean-built but European-focused i40 will be the first casualty of the rebranding process, with Mr Grant revealing that a next-generation model has not yet been planned despite the current generation having launched in 2011.

“There’s no replacement plan (for i40) at the moment,” he said. “It’s fulfilling a particular niche at the moment and going quite well so there’s no plan to replace it.

“The next series of i30 will be called i30 again, but almost all other models – we’re seeing Tucson from ix35, Sonata versus i40 – I don’t think it will exist.” The third-generation i30 will be revealed at the Paris motor show in September and have a lifecycle of around five years. The first-generation i30 launched in Australia in 2007, being the first and longest-serving ‘i’ nameplate, before being succeeded by the current model in 2011.

During that period the i20 has been dropped locally, the ix35 was renamed Tucson, the i45 rebadged Sonata and the Elantra was not permitted to be called the i30 sedan, despite pleas from the Australian subsidiary.

There is no word yet on whether the iMax people-mover and related iLoad van, which do not have the numeral component in the name, will also move to a new moniker.

Despite the global directive, Mr Grant said that fighting for the continuation of the i30 nameplate will be easier because Australia is seen as one of the most successful markets for the small hatchback.

“The i30 will come next year as an i30, because it does work here and it does work in Europe, but the global direction is to have individual names for the models so it’s a matter of how that is interpreted for our market,” he said.

“In the case of i30 … it’s not a model that works particularly well in America and it doesn’t work that well in Korea. So there is an overall policy that might seem confusing, but it’s case by case. It could be the one that survives. We would push hard and we would have a bigger voice at the table.

“It (Australian sales volume) is quite significant, well and truly above our weight relative to other product. It is a product we have a bit more of a say about and it’s a product that works very well globally but it particularly works well in Australia.” It is unlikely that HMCA would fight to retain the i40, with a two-product approach (alongside the Sonata) in a declining medium passenger car segment already on uncertain ground.

“It is difficult to maintain it (i40 and Sonata) from a marketing point of view and a sales point of view you lose some of the economies of scale,” Mr Grant said.

“Effectively (it is) a wagon strategy with one (i40) and sedan with the other (Sonata). It’s not that different to i30 as a hatch to Elantra which is the sedan. It’s a similar approach.

“Whether it’s the best approach I’m not 100 per cent sure, but we’ve got to work with that right now.” In the first half of 2016, Hyundai has sold 22,857 i30s, 2517 Elantras, 939 Sonatas and 491 i40s.

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