Hyundai to show redesigned Azera at L.A. show

Hyundai hopes the Azera will appeal to Sonata owners looking to upgrade within Hyundai's lineup.

LOS ANGELES -- Hyundai's redesigned 2012 Azera sedan will debut at the Los Angeles auto show in November.

The upscale sedan will be the latest update to Hyundai's lineup featuring the brand's "fluidic sculpture" design language, a major change from the current Azera's tame styling. The car is expected to go on sale in late 2011 or early 2012.

John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, announced the Azera's L.A. auto show debut late last night on the company's @Hyundai Twitter account. A Hyundai spokesman today confirmed the information.

"We're in the final stages of ride/handling tuning for the 2012 Azera, and it's dialing in nicely. Look out for it at the LA Auto Show," Krafcik said in the tweet.

Hyundai has not announced powertrain, specifications or pricing details for the 2012 Azera. But a new 3.3-liter direct injection V-6 engine is expected to power the redesigned Azera. Dealers who have seen the car have said the engine will produce around 300 hp.

Hyundai hopes the Azera will appeal to Sonata owners looking to upgrade within Hyundai's lineup without jumping to the Genesis luxury car. Even though Hyundai is sure to follow its recent pattern of loading its new and redesigned products with content, technology and upscale touches, don't expect the 2012 Azera's price to stray too far from the 2011 model's $26,270 sticker.

Pricing too high above the base Sonata's $20,455 sticker makes the jump less appealing, especially considering a base Genesis starts at $35,050, including delivery

Hyundai has also said it expects the Azera's front-wheel-drive layout to appeal to buyers in cold-weather states where the Genesis' rear wheel drive system can be a deal breaker.

The Azera has been a nonstarter for Hyundai for a few years. Sales were just 3,051 units in 2010, a 20 percent drop from 2009. Azera sales in the first half of 2011 were down 31 percent from the same period in 2010 to just 1,095, making it Hyundai's lowest-volume vehicle.

For context, Hyundai sold 1,392 of its new, roughly $60,000 Equus luxo-barge through June, nearly 300 units more than the Azera.

But Hyundai expects its fortunes with the Azera to change when the 2012 model hits showrooms. Hyundai has said the potential exists to sell 18,000 to 20,000 units annually after the redesign.

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