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RICK KRANZ

Here, it's head-turning design; at home, Hyundai's Sonata has a problem

Styling of the Hyundai Sonata is the second-most-influential reason after the warranty why consumers buy the car a J.D. Power study says.
Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

Hyundai is learning you can't please everyone.

While the styling for the Sonata has been a home run in the United States, the Korean market initially was turned off by what some buyers might say is the car's audacious design language, which Hyundai calls "fluidic sculpture."

Simply, the Korean market apparently prefers something less radical; judging from Hyundai's past model line, maybe "ultraconservative" is a better term.

Hyundai's design language was the topic of a story written by my colleague, Ryan Beene, in the Oct. 3 issue Automotive News.

As Beene reported, much of Hyundai's recent success here has been due to the head-turning exterior design of its new vehicles, in particular the Sonata.

In fact, design is the second-most-important reason U.S. consumers purchased a Sonata, according to J.D. Power and Associates. The No. 1 reason is the warranty.

But in Korea it has been a different story.

"There are some people who are very critical of our (design) activities" in Korea, Cho Won Hong, Hyundai Motor's chief marketing officer, told Beene. "However, we believe we should continue to apply this design identity."

Does that mean Hyundai will ignore the opinions of the Korean market? I doubt it.

But it does pose an interesting challenge for Hyundai's design studio: How do you style vehicles that appeal to buyers in Korea without losing those U.S. buyers who view Hyundai's designs as innovative?

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