New Tiburon to arrive in '02

FRANKFURT - Hyundai Motor Co. unveiled a redesigned Tiburon at the auto show here.

With its new shape, engines and transmissions, the coupe "can compete in all world markets," said COO B.H. Sung.

It is aimed to compete with the Toyota Celica and Mercury Cougar, he said.

The redesigned car went on sale in Europe in mid-September, and Tiburon sales start in the United States in January or February, company executives said.

Hyundai expects to sell 25,000 units annually in the United States and Europe.

The Tiburon will be available with three engines and three transmissions, including a Porsche-designed six-speed automatic. The engines include a 2.7-liter V-6.

Sung said Hyundai sees the biggest potential for overseas growth in the United States, but "we never underestimate the European market" because styling developed in Europe "is successful in the rest of the world."

Hyundai sold 244,391 vehicles in the United States last year and expects sales to rise to 320,000 units in 2001, said Hyoung Keun Lee, senior vice president for international marketing.

The Tiburon was introduced in the United States in 1996. Sales were initially poor because of Hyundai's quality problems and its negative image in the United States, Lee said. But sales have been growing. Hyundai sold 15,237 Tiburons in 2000 and 9,641 in 1999.

Lee said he is optimistic the V-6 engine will lure more buyers. Prices haven't been disclosed, but Lee said they would be higher than the current model because of added equipment.

"Our sales have already surpassed Mazda and Mitsubishi in the U.S., and we are nipping at the heels of Volkswagen. Our next target in the U.S. is Nissan," Lee said.

Nissan sold 637,737 vehicles in 2000.

Hyundai plans to expand U.S. sales by offering more light trucks, he said, but would not give details or dates for introductions. Hyundai sells one truck in the United States, the Santa Fe, which went on sale in 2000.

Meanwhile, Sung said Hyundai is not considering building an assembly plant in either the United States or Europe.

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at dkurylko@autonews.com

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