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Hyundai working on light-car strategy

Foreign Accent: The Accent will push on in its current guise for a while yet as Hyundai considers its replacement.

Accent replacement nowhere to be seen as Hyundai plans for the future

26 Feb 2016

HYUNDAI’S ageing Accent light car will continue on for some time yet, despite hanging around for nearly five years, with a suitable replacement for it and the discontinued i20 still unclear.

Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) dropped the i20 at the end of the first-generation model’s life cycle after failing to make a business case for the European-built new version, largely due to exchange rates and shipping costs.

Given the age of the Accent, a replacement should be imminent, but HMCA senior product planning manager Andrew Tuitahi was coy about a new light car when asked by GoAuto at the recent Elantra launch in Tasmania.

“It’s probably not something I could talk about today but we are looking at what our options are in that light-car segment,” he said.

Mr Tuitahi highlighted the high cost of importing smaller models such as the i10 micro car and the new-gen i20 from Europe, but said the car-maker was trying to lift the appeal of the Accent for Australian buyers.

“It’s no surprise we are struggling a little bit for product there. i10 and i20 out of Europe are just too expensive. Exchange rate, freight, all of those things mean we kind of too far away from our target pricing so really not feasible. As of right now those things are off the table so we are looking at what else we could do.

“Right now our strategy was to try and improve Accent as much as possible. We will be seeing things like (Apple) CarPlay and (reversing) camera coming into Accent in the very near future. We have adjusted the price point of that quite significantly, it’s from $14,990 (plus on-road costs) now.

“That kind of puts it into that territory of the previous i20 in terms of pricing, the spec and drive is much better. The immediate future is that Accent.” Recently appointed HMCA chief operating officer Scott Grant said the light-car strategy was in a state of flux for the brand, but added that there was opportunity for the existing Accent to grow now that the i20 is not longer on sale.

“The light-car segment, we are treading water at the moment now that i20 has moved away. Not sure if that is a short-term or long-term situation,” he told GoAuto.

“Accent might have been a bit of a sleeper. We weren’t getting as much out of it as we should have. Arguably because i20 was the hero in that light area. The i20 is not there anymore so there is opportunity for Accent to shine.

“Looking at the numbers, it was filling that hole in the second half of last year and we expect that too this year. Accent has always had potential but now it has room to shine.”

Sales of the Accent jumped 44.3 per cent last year compared with 2014 following the loss of the i20.

Mr Tuitahi admitted that there was some confusion from consumers in dealerships about the model structure, adding that it was hard for the company’s marketing team to highlight the differences in some models, such as the small Elantra and mid-size Sonata sedans.

“That’s one of the struggles our marketing and sales teams have is communicating size and dimension. Guys like Mazda have it somewhat easier because ‘5’ is bigger than ‘3’. But you show someone a picture of an Elantra and show them a Sonata, there is no scale so you don’t know which one is the bigger car.”

Mr Tuitahi said he would like to see a change in naming policy for the Hyundai range to be numbered rather than named nomenclature.

“I would wish that Elantra and i30 were the same nameplate, but globally Elantra has got a heritage. We are talking half a million worldwide so the likelihood of our one per cent (market) being able to sway a name is zero.” In terms of Hyundai’s duel mid-size model strategy – the i40 and the Sonata – Mr Tuitahi said he would prefer the one nameplate and added that this could be he case for the next-gen version.

“That’s probably a struggle similar to our i30 and Elantra situation. We are comfortable in that we have a model that covers two body styles and gives us two or three engine options. Ideally they would be combined into one nameplate.

It’s something we are still studying and trying to work out for the next generations.”

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