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Hyundai' Sonata New Rise aims to dominate midsize sedan market

Hyundai' Sonata New Rise aims to dominate midsize sedan market

Posted March. 09, 2017 07:03,   

Updated March. 09, 2017 07:12

Hyundai Motor has unveiled its new model of Sonata, called “Sonata New Rise,” at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul on Wednesday. The Sonata New Rise is an altered version of the 7th generation of Sonata, “LF Sonata,” which was launched in 2014. Though it is a facelift model of the current LF Sonata, Hyundai Motor is promoting the Sonata New Rise as an innovative model with significant and diverse changes. “The Sonata New Rise will blow a fresh wind in the midsize sedan market in Korea where the fiercest competition is taking place,” said Lee Kwang-guk, executive vice president of Hyundai Motor's domestic sales division.

Since the launch of Hyundai Motor’s first Sonata model in 1985, the Sonata series models have been at the forefront of the midsize sedan sector in Korea. Unfortunately, competition has been getting tougher, delivering an unexpected blow to Hyundai Motor. In the midsize sedan sales ranking, the Sonata models only topped two categories of taxi vehicles and LPG vehicles while being caught up by Renault Samsung’s SM6 and GM Korea's Chevrolet Malibu in other categories in the second half of last year. In other words, midsize sedan of Korean automakers, which once was the most sought after car in Korea’s automotive market, is losing its appeal among Korean customers. Against the backdrop, the success of the Sonata New Rise will mean much more than just the Sonata reclaiming the crown.

○ Slimmer design and more safety features

The Sonata New Rise comes with a cascading grille on its front, the same grille that Hyundai Motor had adopted to its premium sedan Grandeur IG, which was launched in November. Korea's largest automaker plans to promote its cascading grille as the company’s symbolic and iconic design. Hyundai Motor lowered both the position of the grille and the front of the hood, making it look slimmer and sleeker. In addition a net-like grille, which was previously introduced to the Genesis G80 Sport, was also adopted to the turbo model of the Sonata New Rise to give a sportier and more aggressive look.

Hyundai Motor has upgraded the driving assistance system for the Sonata New Rise. The sedan features Hyundai Motor’s smart sensors including a lane-keeping assistance system and an autonomous emergency brake system detecting pedestrians. In addition, a driver attention alert intends to address inattention of drivers by analyzing the status of drivers into five categories, and, for instance, it warns sleepy drivers. “Automakers tried to introduce faster cars in the past, but trends have changed making us focus more on safer and more convenient driving experience,” said Cho Sung-kyun, head of Hyundai Motor’s domestic product marketing office.

Another distinctive feature that would be welcomed by potential customers is the sedan’s one-touch air purifier mode added to its HVAC controls. It aids circulation of the inside air and removes dusts with one click of the button. A new service to share the location of the car is also added for the first time among Hyundai Motor’s vehicles. Drivers can share the location of the car with up to five people via text messages with a link.

○ Breakthrough of midsize sedan and Hyundai Motor hinges on Sonata New Rise

Though the Sonata New Rise features diverse cutting-edge technologies, the price of the new Sonata will be competitive enough as it remains the same or even cheaper compared to the previous LF Sonata. The price of the 2.0-liter gasoline model starts from 22.55 million won (19,600 U.S. dollars), the same price for the LF Sonata with the same type of engine. Hyundai Motor has also frozen the price of the smart models of the Sonata New Rise, which are forecast to be the biggest cash cow among the upcoming Sonata New Rise models. The most expensive model of the sedan will be sold at a price even 220,000 won (190 dollars) lower than the price for the LF Sonata. The price mechanism of the Sonata New Rise reflects Hyundai Motor’s commitment and determination to win back trust from customers.

It is obvious that the Sonata has become less popular among car buyers in Korea. Unlike the previous Sonata models, such as the YF Sonata, the LF Sonata had never topped 100,000 units in yearly sales volume until 2016 since its official launch in 2014.

On top of that, local demand for midsize sedan has been on the decline. A total of 14,760 units of midsize sedan were sold in February, less than 16,314 units of full-size sedan sold in the same period, according to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association. For three months starting from December of 2016, sales volume of full-size sedan has surpassed that of midsize sedan. Some analysts have suggested that potential car buyers are waiting for the Sonata New Rise. To sum up, a new task has been assigned to Hyundai Motor with its Sonata New Rise.

Woo-Shin Han hanwshin@donga.com