Elantra and Sonata -- Hyundai’s shooting stars

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

During a conversation with a Hyundai dealer this year, the dealer expressed concern that the redesigned Elantra would cannibalize his Sonata sales.

Elantra sales would rise, the dealer reasoned, while Sonata sales would drop, resulting in little or no gain for his dealership.

Last year the Sonata was a hot-selling car with record sales of 196,623. Credit the redesign and the sharp-looking styling for the strong sales -- it’s a head turner.

Sales of the new compact Elantra began in December 2010.

The dealer cited three reasons to support his opinion.

First, the Elantra’s sticker price is about $4,500 less than the Sonata yet it offers standard equipment comparable to that of the Sonata.

The Elantra’s styling is also very similar to Sonata’s. If styling is the primary reason for the purchase, Elantra likely would be the choice if the buyer was shopping both cars, he thought.

Third, Elantra has a large interior. It falls into the government’s mid-sized car category, as does the Sonata. Another reason for a buyer to take the lower-priced car, he thought.

So what happened?

Elantra sales took off like a rocket during the January-through-April period. Sales soared 89 percent to 63,303, vs. 33,538 in the year-earlier period.

And Sonata?

Sales soared 46 percent, to 73,616.

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