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Whitehorn outlines UK growth for Hyundai

Hyundai plans to double its UK sales to 70,000 a year by 2012 once the tap is turned on at its new European production plant.

Tony Whitehorn, managing director of Hyundai UK, said that since the South Korean company took control of its UK distribution two years ago there was now a clear vision for Europe with a head office in Frankfurt and a new factory opening in the Czech Republic.

Whitehorn said: “Europe is clearly a focus area for the Hyundai Automotive Group with Kia’s factory just 40 miles away from ours. We are now looking to kick on, particularly in the UK where we effectively want to double sales to 70,000 vehicles a year by 2012.”

Hyundai’s Czech Republic factory will build the i30 and the Tuscon, mirroring Kia’s Slovakian production of the Cee’d and Sportage. Whitehorn agreed there was still work to do in terms of differentiating between the sister brands.

He said: “If you like, we are VW and Kia is Seat, younger and more sporty. For example, unlike the Kia Cee’d, there will be no three-door Hyundai i30. We will be more expensive and have more equipment.

“We will also continue with our 5-year unlimited mileage warranty as against Kia’s seven-year, 100,000 mile.”

Whitehorn said that there were key differences also between the i10, launched in the UK just ahead of Geneva, and Kia’s small Picanto. “Key to the i10 is the specification with much higher standard equipment than Picanto. It is also based on a different platform and built in India – a country where the i10 is number one in the market.”

While the Hyundai Getz will remain on sale for the time being, the company is looking to sell 10,000 i10s a year in the UK.

Whitehorn said: “The changing face of Hyundai with i10, i20 and i30 will also signal the change in image. We have always been perceived as reliable but cheap. We still need to be affordable but we also need to have the looks, the refinement and the quality.”

The i10 was the first of a number of new products Hyundai is launching in the UK this year including the i30 estate, an MPV, and facelifts for the Matrix, Sonata and the i20.

Whitehorn said he expected sales to grow to around 32,000 this year in the UK, up from 30,000 in 2007 then up to 40,000 in 2009.

#AM_ART_SPLIT# Hyundai unveils hint at future MPV

Hyundai’s i-mode concept is a future hint at a possible six-seater MPV which is planned for production.

The MPV concept shown at the Geneva Motor Show features Hyundai’s swivel seat system which allows the first row passenger seat rotates to face second and third row occupants.

The i-mode is powered by a new 2.2-litre R diesel engine has a power output of 213bhp and is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Mass production of the R Engine is scheduled to begin with the standard (single turbocharged) version in 2009 with the dual-stage turbocharged edition arriving in the first half of 2011.

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