Hyundai plans new 'flagship' sedan to combat growing rivals at home

Hyundai reveals its AG concept sedan today at the Busan motor show in South Korea. A production version goes on sale in South Korea in the second half of 2014.
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TOKYO --- Hyundai Motor Co., feeling pinched at home by increasingly popular import brands, will add a new "flagship" sedan slotted between the Azera and Genesis to try to win more high-end sales.

An exterior design concept of the front-wheel-drive car, dubbed the AG, was unveiled today at the Busan motor show in South Korea. A production version goes on sale in South Korea in the second half of 2014, Hyundai said in a press release.

The company has no plans for now to sell the AG overseas, Hyundai spokesman Brian Sir said.

Hyundai calls the AG its “new flagship premium sedan,” even though it will still offer the larger Genesis and top-shelf Equus to “show the importance we’re placing on this model,” company spokeswoman Meeyoung Song said.

Niche pockets

Hyundai is trying to better target niche pockets for premium cars in its home market, especially as competition ramps up from German brands. Sales of imports have soared following recent free-trade agreements with Europe and the United States.

“The competitive landscape is changing in the domestic market and we need to respond more actively to cover the premium market,” Song said. “We conducted a detailed customer survey with the aim of subdividing the existing premium market and enhancing our competitiveness.”

Imports have made big inroads since 1987, when South Korea opened up to foreign brands. That year, only 10 foreign cars were sold nationwide. Today, imports hold 13 percent of the market. BMW is No. 1, followed by Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.

The big shifts came in 2011, when South Korea enacted a free-trade agreement with the European Union, and in 2012, when the free-trade pact with the United States took effect.

The AG channels Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language into a long hood and refined character line down its length. Added Hyundai in a statement: “This new front-wheel-drive flagship sedan will offer quiet and sophisticated driving comfort, while adopting a series of advanced convenience features.”

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter


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