AM Online

Car confidential: Upmarket Korean? Take it seriously

Mr T – of TV’s BA Baracus fame – now appears to work in Hyundai’s ad agency. “I ain’t no fool,” rumbles the new Coupe campaign, suggesting that smart buyers look beyond the badge to find a cut-price gem. There’s a thin line between being brave and foolhardy.

Take Hyundai’s pledge that it will gatecrash the world’s top five biggest carmakers by 2010, combined with its stooge brand Kia.

While that may raise eyebrows, Hyundai’s next initiative is a real eye popper. The Koreans are determined to launch a luxury brand to rival Lexus and Infiniti. “It’s not nonsense, they are seriously talking about it,” a Hyundai suit told me.

So, dealers, get ready. The new brand should be launched within “three to five years” Stateside. Rear-wheel drive and a 3.5-litre V6 engine are givens, but does Hyundai launch with a me-too saloon or a niche-busting crossover to grab attention?

Meanwhile, Hyundai continues to build towards its target with a stream of new and refreshed metal. Next month, the Sonata replacement and two facelifted cars – the Coupe and Santa Fe 4x4 – take a bow.

The Sonata replacement is again targeted at the Mondeo – it resembles a smart Honda Accord and, crucially, a common-rail diesel will be offered for the first time. The Coupe’s cosmetic surgery includes fresh front and rear lamps, the new corporate grille and a flash side gill design.

The 2.0-litre gets the V6’s 17in alloys, while tweaks include a remote boot release and retractable aerial.

The Santa Fe gets a similar external makeover, and new equipment including trip computer. Prices are also set to rise by at least £1000, as Hyundai seeks to put clear blue water between it and the new Tucson.

Then the Accent replacement arrives in 18 months. Forget today’s dull effort, this hatchback has been designed to compete with Europe’s finest. And last year’s CCS coupe-cabriolet concept will make production – of sorts. Hyundai won’t take a can-opener to the outgoing Coupe.

Instead, it should be replaced by a folding tin-top around 2008. Perfect thinking for a value brand.

The upmarket push, however, is risky. Hyundai may end up looking, as BA would say, “crazy fools”.

If you are not a registered user your comment will go to AM for approval before publishing. To avoid this requirement please register or login.

Login to comment


No comments have been made yet.