Hyundai to give crossovers an update and hybrids a spin

2015 Hyundai Genesis
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Future Product Pipeline

Hyundai is already into the first year of a steady period in its new-product cadence that will see at least two significant launches in each of the next three years.

Hyundai's five- and seven-passenger crossovers will be freshened next year for the 2016 model year, with improved supplies of the next-generation Tucson giving Hyundai a stronger presence in the crossover market. A re-engineered Elantra will be Hyun-dai's next major launch when it arrives in late 2015 or early 2016.

A relative laggard in electrification, Hyundai will change that by launching at least one plug-in hybrid in the near future, starting with a plug-in version of its Sonata. A second PHEV is also a possibility further down the road.

Meanwhile, Hyundai is looking at opportunities to add smaller, turbo-charged engines to its lineup, though those plans are still being ironed out.

And Hyundai's long-rumored rear-wheel-drive sports sedan, envisioned to be a less-expensive competitor of the Cadillac ATS or BMW 3 series, is still on the table. But whether it will get the green light is a complicated decision, one made more so by lower-priced small cars from Audi and Mercedes-Benz.

Here's a look at Hyundai's product plans through 2018.

Accent: Based on usual product life cycles, look for new sheet metal to appear when the Accent is re-engineered in 2016 for the 2017 model year.

Elantra: A re-engineered Elantra is scheduled for a late 2015 launch, though it may slip into early 2016.

As with other recently re-engineered Hyundais, the Elantra carries over the same platform but with significant changes. Those include a revamped suspension for better driving dynamics and additional high-strength steel incorporated into the car's body-in-white for added stiffness and lower noise, vibration and harshness.

The Elantra will get new sheet metal and a new interior design. Its 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter engine options will carry over into the coming generation. The company is considering a smaller, turbocharged engine, but no decision has been made.

Sonata: Hyundai's core family sedan was re-engineered for the 2015 model year and went on sale in June. No major changes are expected for roughly five years, though a freshening would arrive for the 2017 model year under normal product lifecycles.

Sonata Hybrid: The Sonata Hybrid will arrive mid-2015 for the 2016 model year, roughly nine months after the gasoline-powered mid-sized sedan debuted in the United States.

Sonata plug-in hybrid: Following the Sonata Hybrid's debut, Hyundai plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid version of the sedan to bolster its green-car offerings. A Sonata plug-in could arrive in the first half 2016.

New plug-in hybrid: Hyundai also may add another plug-in nameplate to its lineup after the Sonata PHEV debuts. If that happens, look for it sometime in 2017.

Azera: Hyundai's large, near-premium front-wheel-drive sedan will continue in its current form through 2017. Whether the United States will get the next-generation Azera is being decided.

The sedan is struggling here and gets little marketing support, but it's hugely popular in South Korea, where it's known as the Grandeur and where the product planners who will develop the next-generation Azera sit. Hyundai's team in Fountain Valley, Calif., needs to decide whether a revamped, low-volume Azera can fit into an already sedan-heavy lineup and whether it's worth the marketing dollars.

It's more likely than not that a next-generation Azera with new sheet metal will be available in the United States, but it's unlikely to arrive until 2017.

Genesis: A redesigned, second-generation Genesis went on sale this year.

Genesis Coupe: Despite losing the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine from its powertrain lineup, the Genesis Coupe will live on in its current form for at least two or three more model years as Hyundai wrestles with the direction of its smaller rwd cars.

Equus: The second-generation, redesigned Equus should arrive in 2016 under normal timetables.

Rwd sports sedan: Sources say the decision about a successor to the Genesis Coupe hinges on whether the long-rumored rwd sports sedan code-named IK, envisioned as Hyundai's answer to the BMW 3 series and Cadillac ATS, gets the green light.

One scenario contemplates killing the Genesis Coupe nameplate and resurrecting the car as a two-door variant of the four-door IK.

But launching IK would be costly. It's also becoming trickier to fit such a car into Hyundai's lineup: The Sonata, Azera and Genesis sedans cover the $20,000 to $50,000 price range, and new, low-price premium cars from Germany, such as the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA, are roiling the market.

Sources say IK is on the table. But whether it will be sold here eventually -- and what exactly it will look like in terms of price, performance and packaging -- is a decision that requires much more work.

A few more special editions of the three-door Veloster should come out, but Hyundai is still deciding on a second generation.

Veloster: A few more special editions of Hyundai's funky three-door coupe should come out during the car's current lifespan, but the company is still considering whether to build a second generation. Hyundai needs to decide whether the precious assembly line space occupied by the relatively low-volume Veloster would be better filled with a different product. 

If a second generation gets the green light, it's unlikely to arrive until 2017. 

Subcompact CUV: Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski has said the company is very interested in the segment, but no decision has been made.

Hyundai has studied such a car in-depth, suggesting that a subcompact CUV is likely. It would be sold worldwide, and Hyundai needs to determine what it should look like in key markets such as the United States, Europe and China. If approved for production, it wouldn't hit the street for at least four years. 

Tucson: U.S. dealers will see Tucson supplies double to about 90,000 vehicles for sale in the United States once the next-generation compact crossover arrives next year for its 2016 model year re-engineering. The next-generation Tucson is slated for a spring auto show debut.

Substantial changes are being made to the platform for improved driving dynamics and reduced noise, vibration and harshness, including an overhauled suspension and greater use of high-strength steel. 

The Tucson's lineup of 2.0-liter and 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines is expected to carry over, though sources say the company also is studying a downsized, turbocharged engine. 

Santa Fe: The current generation debuted in 2012 for the 2013 model year, meaning the mid-sized crossover won't be due for new sheet metal via a redesign or re-engineering until the 2018 model year. 

You can reach Ryan Beene at rbeene@crain.com. -- Follow Ryan on Twitter


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