Hyundai and Kia Branch Out Into New Segments

With their sales now on solid footing, Hyundai and Kia are attempting to strengthen their position and further their sales momentum by marketing new models in more upscale segments, adding exciting design elements and moving their brands to the next level.

Hyundai and Kia share vehicle platforms through a complex ownership structure, and are enjoying rock solid sales in the U.S. despite what has been a very shaky market. How have they done it? They’re offering new products with the latest features and loading their vehicles with the style and technology that buyers are looking for.

Only three brands made a sales gain in the U.S. last year, and Hyundai and Kia were two of the three. Both companies have improved their market share this year. As they branch out into more upscale markets with the new models planned, each company hopes to bring more definition to its identity and target different types of customers.

Hyundai Motor America’s sales boss, Dave Zuchowski, says that they are wooing baby boomers, a group that values reliability and quality above all, and has gravitated toward Honda and Toyota brands historically. Kia, on the other hand, will be targeting a younger demographic with stylish models that are fun to drive.

New upscale models planned by Hyundai include the Equus sedan, which is priced at above $60,000, a redesigned Azera and the sporty little Veloster coupe. Kia also has plans to possibly replace the Rondo minivan with a taller five-door based on the Hyundai i30 which is currently marketed in Europe. Kia has also chosen a successor for the Cadenza—the Amanti.

Both Kia and Hyundai hope the new models will help them shake the image of the boring budget car. Kia’s new Optima has a more exciting, sportier shape, and the new Elantra from Hyundai will have a Sonata-esque “swoop” to its new look.

Neither company has ignored the eco-friendly alternative fuel technology trend, either. Kia will make a hybrid version of its Optima available, and is also considering a dedicated hybrid. Hyundai is working on a hybrid Sonata in addition to a fuel cell vehicle that may be introduced in 2012.

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