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Hyundai sticks to mid-size cars in Australia

Eye on i40: Stand by for a facelift of the long-in-the-tooth, Euro-targeted i40 (left) as Hyundai continues keep mum on whether it will enter a new generation or ‘merge’ with the more US-oriented Sonata (below).

No official word on future of Hyundai’s Sonata/i40, but HMCA keeps faith in segment

Hyundai logo25 Jun 2018

HYUNDAI remains committed to offering mid-size passenger cars in Australia, despite buyers shifting allegiance to SUVs and still no word yet on the South Korean brand’s future model strategy that sees its long-in-the-tooth, European-focused i40 and American-aimed Sonata sharing showroom space.
 
GoAuto understands the company is likely to merge the two model lines into a single offering that will be primarily targeted at the US market, where Hyundai sold 131,800 examples of the Sonata last year – well down on the circa 200K it sold in 2016 but miles ahead of the 15,250 i40s delivered in Europe (down 25 per cent on 2016). 
 
The i40 has been on sale in Australia since 2011, while the latest Sonata was launched here in 2015. Hyundai recorded 960 Sonata sales last year (down 42.2 per cent) and shifted 888 i40s (down 9.2 per cent). Both are back in positive territory this year. 
 
“We will follow the global strategy and we are going to keep this D-segment car – either Sonata, or i40, or something together,” Hyundai Motor Co Australia chief executive JW Lee told GoAuto.
 
Mr Lee said there was no timing on the decision for generational change and that a facelift for i40 was in the pipeline, which will help keep it fresh. 
 
“The i40 is designed specially for the Euro market, and Sonata designed for the American market, so this is yet to be finalised whether we are going to merge into the one D-segment car or just maintaining this current (situation) with two models,” he said.
 
“This is still developing and is yet to be finalised in our head office in global strategy.
 
“In Australia, which is quite a unique market, still customers want some i40, still some customers want Sonata, because of their (differing) lifestyles.”
 
Hyundai Motor Europe chief designer Thomas Buerkle told GoAuto last year that the company would not walk out on the D-segment, despite its contraction worldwide as buyers increasingly favour SUVs.
 
“We are one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world and we need a whole line-up,” he said. “We cannot just ignore certain cars.
 
“I think when you look at other companies, they chopped the D-segment but it was not successful in the end. You have to have the bandwidth to offer it to the customer.”
 
As reported, GoAuto understands that Kia’s Optima is also facing the axe in Australia unless a significant increase in sales result from the just-introduced facelift that now sees the entry-level Si model start from $33,390 plus on-roads.
 
Honda has committed to bringing its new-generation Accord to market later next year, bucking the trend which has seen a string of departures in recent years including the Nissan Altima, Holden Malibu, Holden (and, earlier, Opel) Insignia, Suzuki Kizashi, Citroen C5 and its own Accord Euro.

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GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.