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Kona to take pressure off Hyundai i30

Give and take: Sales of the new i30 hatch (left) have dipped by 29 per cent so far this year but the Kona crossover (below) should make up some of the shortfall.

Hyundai expects Kona to reduce reliance on i30 as buyer tastes shift to SUVs

Hyundai logo13 Oct 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia (HMCA) executives are hoping the Kona small SUV will take some of the load off the latest i30, which has taken a 29 per cent sales hit this year due to its more expensive entry-level pricing and a move to more conservative design.

According to HMCA chief executive officer, JW Lee, one of the Kona’s biggest tasks is to reduce the company’s reliance on the small car, which has enjoyed a stellar 10-year run in Australia, even taking the number one position on a number of occasions.

“We have relied too much on the one product, the i30,” he told GoAuto at the launch of the Kona in Canberra this week. “The i30 has long accounted for 35 per cent of our total sales. That’s good, and our dealers have been happy about that. But this year i30 sales have not been up to expectations, and dealers have been a little bit anxious.

“So, I think this Kona will make some kind of turnaround for our dealers to raise our market share, so maybe this will reduce our dependence on that one model. It will also make our sales healthier overall.”

Mr Lee revealed that while measures such as a cheaper base i30 would be taken to reverse its sliding sales, the new model has attracted a broader audience than previous versions have, from brands such as Volkswagen and Toyota.

“I have heard from dealers that our demographic was (predominantly) over 55-year old or under 25, but thanks to the new PD (i30) new customers have decided to come to our showrooms,” he said.

“And that is a different experience. And some of these customers have owned Volkswagens or Mazda or Corolla, so the good thing is that other kind of customers are now starting to consider products like the PD, and so are aware of the beauty of the latest model. So, I hope those i30 sales will gradually increase anyway.”

One area where the Kona is expected to bring incremental sales is in the small wagon market, which Hyundai was represented in with the previous i30 wagon.

While a new-gen version was unveiled internationally at the last Geneva motor show back in April, the body style will not return to Australia due to the high cost of importation from the Czech Republic.

“Yes, the wagon is off the table,” an HMCA spokesman said. “Made in Czech only, we can’t make the business model work with the current exchange rate and the volume would be very low. The combination isn't worth it, especially given booming SUV demand.”

With the base Kona Active automatic kicking off from $24,500 plus on-road costs, the small SUV undercuts the old i30 wagon equivalent last sold in Australia in 2016 by about $2500.

Hyundai expects up to 80 per cent of Kona sales to go to the 2.0-litre four-cylinder front-wheel drive version, with the rest slated for the higher-performance 1.6-litre turbo all-wheel drive.

Similarly, some 40 per cent of buyers will probably choose the base Active, leaving the mid-range Elite and range-topping Highlander to equally split the 60 per cent remainder.

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