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(2nd LD) Hyundai Kona part of carmaker's plan to bolster SUV lineup

All Headlines 15:53 June 13, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS vice chairman's additional comments and background in last four paras)
By Choi Kyong-ae

GOYANG, South Korea, June 13 (Yonhap) -- Hyundai Motor Co. on Tuesday unveiled its first subcompact SUV Kona in a move to bolster its SUV lineup in the coming years amid growing demand for recreational vehicles.

Faced with sliding sales in overseas markets, Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun has outlined its plan to add five new models by 2020 to its current SUV lineup composed of the Creta, Tucson, Santa Fe and Maxcruz models.

The five new SUVs are an all-electric Kona, a fuel cell car, a SUV larger than the Santa Fe and two smaller-sized crossovers, the company said.

"The global SUV market has grown by an average of 20 percent in the past seven years. In particular, global carmakers are vying for a bigger share in the subcompact (or B segment) SUV market," Chung said in a press conference held for the Kona's world premiere.

Hyundai Motor's Kona SUV (Courtesy of Hyundai Motor) (Yonhap)

Instead of "hurriedly" launching new compact SUV models in the markets, Hyundai completed a thorough market analysis and used the "optimal" technologies in the Kona, he stressed.

Starting Wednesday, the Kona SUV mated to either a 1.6-liter gasoline turbo engine or a 1.6-liter diesel engine will go on sale in the domestic market. The models are fitted with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission, Hyundai said.

The Kona is priced at between 19 million won (US$16,800) and 27 million won for domestic consumers.

The company said it will start the production of the Kona for export to Europe and the United States at its domestic plants in August and December, respectively. It counts Nissan Motor Corp.'s Juke and Honda Motor Co.'s CR-V as rivals of the Kona in the U.S.

Hyundai aims to export a combined 41,000 units of the Kona to the two major markets this year and 150,000 units next year. Domestically, it targets to sell more than 26,000 Konas this year and 45,000 units next year.

Kona models equipped with a 1.0 gasoline turbo GDi engine and 1.6 gasoline turbo GDi engine will be available in Europe. The 1.6 diesel model is scheduled to be launched there next year. In the U.S., the 1.6 gasoline turbo GDi engine and a 2.0 gasoline MPi engine Konas will be sold, Hyundai said.

Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun answers questions from a reporter in a Q&A session following the company's world premiere event for the Kona SUV held at Hyundai Motor Studio in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul, on June 13, 2017. (Yonhap)

The subcompact SUV market grew sharply over the past seven years, jumping to 4.64 million units sold in 2016 from 485,000 units in 2010. It is expected to grow 19 percent on-year to 5.54 million units this year, according to market research firm IHS Markit.

To offset slowing sales in China and the U.S., Hyundai has decided to diversify its SUV lineup by launching a variety of SUV models, including a high-performance one, from the smallest A segment to the biggest E segment.

In the January-May period, Hyundai sold 1.82 million vehicles, down 6.5 percent from 1.95 million units a year earlier. Given this trend, the carmaker may miss this year's sales target of 5.08 million units.

"We have suffered a setback in sales, but we will use this as an opportunity to overhaul our lineup. We will strengthen business ties with technology firms, such as Baidu and Uber," said Chung, the only son of Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo.

As for a possible acquisition of a carmaker, he said it was not under consideration for now.

Meanwhile, Hyundai's sister company Kia Motors Corp. will also strengthen its SUV lineup by launching the Stonic subcompact SUV next month.

Hyundai and Kia, which together form the world's fifth-biggest carmaker by sales, aim to sell a combined 8.25 million autos this year, up from 7.9 million in the previous year.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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