LOS ANGELES -- In the six months since its launch, the redesigned Hyundai Sonata sedan is gaining ground on its main competition.
The Sonata has found its way onto shopping lists that include the Japanese Big 3: the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.
What's more, Hyundai is winning an increasing share of those battles, at higher transaction prices than before, a Hyundai executive says.
With a new design, and power and equipment levels on par with class leaders, the Sonata is expected to be Hyundai's U.S. volume leader, eventually selling about 150,000 units annually.
In 2004, Hyundai sold 107,189 units.
Early in the game, Hyundai has found a niche in selling the value-priced GLS V-6 version of the Sonata, which starts at $21,495, including shipping.
The GLS is expected to account for 35 percent of Sonata sales, mostly because it has a lower sticker price than some four-cylinder Japanese sedans.
"Our secret weapon is a $21,000 car," says John Krafcik, Hyundai's vice president of product development and strategic planning. "We are grabbing four-cylinder Camry and Accord intenders."
Overall, vehicles with V-6 engines will account for slightly more than 60 percent of all Sonata sales, although customers who configure a car on Hyundai's Internet site choose a V-6 more than 70 percent of the time, Krafcik says. That is a far higher percentage than among the Sonata's main Japanese rivals, whose V-6 trim levels account for about one-third of sales.