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Hyundai keeps the faith in mid-size Sonata

Ups and downs: Sonata sales have fluctuated since the nameplate returned to the market in 2015, and sales this year have dipped by 46.4 per cent.

Refreshed Hyundai Sonata to target fleet and private buyers with new price structure

Hyundai logo9 Nov 2017

By NEIL DOWLING

HYUNDAI Motor Company Australia (HMCA) has recommitted to the struggling medium-car segment with its heavily restyled, equipment-rich and now-rationalised Sonata range that it will pitch at both family buyers and fleets.

The sedan, which sits alongside its i40 sibling in the same category, now offers extra value of up to $2000, but HMCA management admitted at the updated model’s launch this week that lifting sales in the dwindling segment will be difficult.

As reported earlier this month, the revised Sonata range kicks off with the Active at $30,990 plus on-road costs – a rise of $400 on its predecessor – and, with the mid-spec Elite now deleted, takes a large $14,500 leap to the top-shelf $45,490 Premium.

Using diesel power as a point of difference to Sonata, the i40 sedan is priced from $33,690 for the Active and $42,850 for the Premium (plus on-roads), while petrol and diesel i40 wagon variants are also available.

HMCA chief executive JW Lee told GoAuto it was important for the company to remain a full-line importer, hence its ongoing commitment to the two mid-size model line-ups.

“It is our aim to be in as many segments as possible to offer the Australian customer the widestchoice,” he said.

“Even though it is a shrinking market, the medium-car segment remains an important part of thecar-buyer’s choice.

“That’s why we have the i40 in the same segment. These are two quite different cars with different buyers. For example, 65-70 per cent of the i40s sold in Australia are diesels. Sonata does not have a diesel.

“These two models, despite being in the same segment, are complementary.”

Toyota’s Camry dominates the segment, largely because it has been well marketed, readily available through its local manufacture (which ended last month) and offered at ultra-competitive prices – below $27,000 driveaway for the entry Altise, for example.

Now that Camry production has ended in Australia and will be imported from Japan from later this month, Mr Lee said he was keen to see how Toyota’s new-generation mid-sizer will be positioned.

“We’ll wait and see what price the Camry will be,” he said.

“We believe that Sonata still has room to grow, despite Camry’s dominance. But pricing will beimportant.

“It has to be, for the buyer, a value proposition. That could be Camry and it can also be Sonata.”

Mr Lee would not be drawn on possible changes to the Sonata’s pricing and equipment levels down the track to give it an advantage over rivals, which as well as Camry include the Mazda6, Ford Mondeo, Volkswagen Passat, Subaru Liberty and Skoda Octavia.

The Sonata has a subtle focus to the needs of the US customers given the segment is still huge there, and this includes the lack of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – although it has an active cruise control system on the Premium version.

Mr Lee said not having AEB was “not ideal”, a by-product of the safety system not being sought after in the US.

“We will try and include it in the future,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was not available to us.”

The Sonata returned to the market after a five-year absence in early 2015 and that year captured 1629 sales, just 114 units shy of its i40 sibling but off the pace of rivals such as Mondeo (2120), Passat (2292), Liberty (4097) and Mazda6 (5276). Camry was miles in front with 27,654 sales.

Last year Hyundai sold 1676 Sonatas, representing a 2.9 per cent lift over 2015, while the i40 dropped by a massive 43.9 per cent to 978 units.

So far this year, Sonata sales have dropped 46.4 per cent to 790 units, while i40 is down a further 12.0 per cent on 752.

In comparison, Toyota has sold 20,498 Camrys to the end of October, up 9.7 per cent, and one of only two models in the (sub-$60,000) segment in positive territory.

The other is the Mondeo (2610, +4.1%), which is in third place Mazda6 holds the other podium spot, with 3012 sales year-to-date (-17.1%).

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