SEOUL – Hyundai Motor plans to launch a revamped version of its flagship Sonata sedan in 2014, its first upgrade in more than four years, its chief executive said on Wednesday, as the company grapples with increasing foreign competition in its home market.
Hyundai, the world’s fifth-largest auto group along with its affiliate Kia Motors, has only one new model planned for a global launch this year. It started taking pre-orders on Wednesday for the new Santa Fe sports utility vehicle, which will be unveiled in April.
The latest version of the Sonata was launched in September 2009 in South Korea and early 2010 in the United States.
Sonata, which competes with Toyota Motor Corp’s Camry, is Hyundai’s top-selling model in the United States and helped the South Korean automaker achieve record sales and market share there last year. It was Hyundai’s third-best selling model in South Korea last year.
Hyundai’s domestic car sales are increasingly coming under pressure following free trade deals with Europe and the United States that have boosted international automakers’ access to South Korea’s formerly sheltered market.
Sales of imported cars topped 10 percent of the market for the first time in January this year, according to industry data.
Toyota has started to sell U.S.-made Camry sedans in South Korea and is considering importing cars from Europe as it seeks to boost local sales by 160 percent to 13,000 vehicles this year, and Lexus sales by 90 percent to 8,000.
Hyundai chief executive Kim Choong-ho also told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry meeting that the revamped version of the large-sized Genesis would be introduced in late 2013.
Shares in Hyundai fell 0.9 percent by 0310 GMT, versus a 0.6 percent rise in the broader market.