Hyundai to Offer New Models and Engines in the U.S.

Seoul, Korea-based Hyundai Motor Company has announced that it will launch several new and redesigned vehicles in the U.S. over the next year to help prolong its recent surge in sales.

At a recent press event, company executives said the new models will include a small sport coupe based on the Elantra as well as refreshed versions of the Elantra and Accent, turbocharged and hybrid versions of the popular Sonata sedan and the much touted Equus luxury sedan.

In addition to the new models, Hyundai also plans to launch a number of upgraded engines.

As the global economic crisis began to take hold in 2008, auto buyers began taking a fresh look at Hyundai. In the intervening years, the quality and sales gaps between Hyundai and its American, European and Japanese competitors have narrowed considerably. From January through May of this year, Huyndai’s sales rose a remarkable 23% in the U.S., outpacing the 17% increase in overall market sales. During the first five months of 2010, Hyundai was one of only three brands to see its sales increase compared with the same period in 2009.

Hyundai Motor’s Americas region division senior vice president Chang-Hwan Han said the company wants to show U.S. consumers that Hyundai products outperform the competition, not just in price, but in quality.  He said, “By launching these new models, our brand image in the U.S. will be enhanced. The purchasing pattern will be changed.”

Updated versions of the Sonata sedan, which is built at Hyundai’s Montgomery, Alabama, will launch this fall. The new Sonata will feature a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that will deliver 274 hp and a combined fuel-efficiency rating of 32 mpg for less than $25,000 according to Hyundai Motor America chief operating officer, John Krafcik. The automaker will also offer a hybrid version capable of delivering 40 mpg. The hybrid Sonata will have a slightly different fascia than the standard gas-powered model and will be the first mass produced vehicle to use advanced lithium polymer batteries. The hybrid model will also feature a six-speed automatic transmission with no torque converter instead of the continuously variable transmission found in most hybrids.

Also scheduled to launch this fall is the eagerly awaited Equus luxury sedan. Hyundai has said the new premium auto will be priced between $55,000 and $60,000. The Equus will debut with a 366 hp 4.6-liter V-8 which Hyundai plans to replace next spring with a direct-injection 5.0-liter V-8. The upgrade will increase horsepower to 429 and boost torque to 376 pounds feet. Hyundai will also upgrade its Genesis sedan to the new engine.

A redesigned version of the Elantra will launch in January. The new design is said to be similar to that of the Avante which launched in South Korea earlier this year. In addition to body styling, upgrades to the Elantra will include a 1.6-liter Gamma-series four-cylinder engine.

A redesigned Accent subcompact is scheduled to launch in the U.S. next spring. The new Accent will also get a smaller displacement Gamma-series engine.

Finally, Hyundai plans to launch a small sports coupe model which it tentatively calls the Veloster. Krafcik said the model will feature a 1.6-liter direct-injection engine that will deliver 40 mpg in highway driving and 140 hp. There has also been discussion about launching a wagon version of the Sonata in the U.S. but no final decision has been made. The model is set to launch in Europe next year.

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