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Light-car segment still important to Hyundai

Accentuated: The already-revealed Accent sedan is off the table for the Australian market as production out of Mexico will be in left-hand-drive form only.

Sourcing issues surround Hyundai’s next light car, but brand committed to segment

Hyundai logo23 Mar 2018

HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia (HMCA) is still keen to field a competitor in the light-car segment, despite issues surrounding what model will replace the ageing Accent hatchback and a shrinking market as buyers shift preferences to SUVs.

Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the i30 N hot hatch, HMCA senior product planning manager Andrew Tuitahi said offering a model in the light-car segment was vital to Hyundai as an entry point for new and young customers.

“I always want to have a light car, and I think it’s important for Hyundai as a brand,” he said. “We’ve established a reputation as offering great value for money, and I think many people would consider a light car to be a stepping stone into the brand.

“We look at some of the other offerings we’ve got in the range from the SUVs to the car you’re driving today (i30 N), I think it’s important to try and capture those people at the cheapest price and, often, the younger stage.”

Being the brand’s cheapest model, the current-generation Accent light car kicks off from $15,490 before on-roads and has been on sale since 2011.

Hyundai has kept the Accent fresh against competition including the Mazda2, Honda Jazz, Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris with various running changes over the years, but the fifth-generation version revealed early last year is still to be confirmed for Australia.

In 2017, Hyundai topped the sub-$25,000 light-car segment with its Accent accruing 17,578 sales (down six per cent on 2016’s tally), which was enough for the South Korean car-maker to carve up 22 per cent of the market that was down 10.6 per cent.

In terms of hierarchy, the Accent was Hyundai’s third highest-selling model behind the i30 small car and Tucson mid-size SUV.

For the first two months of the year, the Accent has continued to be a strong seller for Hyundai, amassing 2879 new registrations to the end of February, representing a 26.2 per cent year-on-year lift in sales.

However, production of the new-generation Accent has moved to Mexico and India, making the new model currently unsuitable for local market consumption, according to Mr Tuitahi.

“Right now, Mexico is left-hand-drive only,” he said. “We are looking for possibilities for Accent production, but I’m not sure we can get a hatch, it might end up being Indian production for a sedan – which doesn’t really leave us with many options.

“Ideally we could take i10 and i20 out of Europe, but right now there is just too big a gap in terms of cost for us relative to what we need to price it at for the market.

“Primarily the issues there are shipping and manufacturing costs, as well as current exchange rate, so we’re still studying, trying to find a solution to our light segment.”

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