Hyundai Motor Co., buoyed by market-share gains during this years sales crash, confirmed plans to launch its Equus luxury sedan in the United States in late 2010.
The Equus is Hyundai's flagship model, with a redesign introduced in March in South Korea. It would be another step up the performance ladder for Hyundai, which is still widely known for budget vehicles.
John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said a test marketing program clinched the decision.
"The response was extraordinarily positive," he said in a statement today, "so we've decided to bring it to the U.S."
After showing the Equus at the New York auto show in April, the company put about about 100 units into a summer test fleet for dealers and consumers. A company insider said in June that Hyundai planned a U.S. debut for 2010 at a price below $60,000.
The Equus has the same rear-wheel-drive technology and 375-hp, 4.6-liter V-8 engine as the Hyundai Genesis. Hyundai said it built the Equus to compete with luxury makes such as Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
Hyundai said it will announce later the U.S. name of the car as well as its price and specifications.
Amenities for the Equus include a lane-departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, heated steering wheel and a rear seat that massages the passenger's back. A built-in cooler keeps beverages cold.
The Equus wheelbase is 4.3 inches longer than the Genesis sedans, making it 11.4 inches longer than a 2010 Mercedes E-class sedan.
The automaker had sold 11,953 Genesis sedans and Coupes through July. A fully loaded Genesis sedan stickers for about $42,000; a loaded Coupe is priced at about $32,750. Prices include shipping.
Hyundai has limited its U.S. sales decline to 7.9 percent this year through July, while the overall market has dropped 32.1 percent amid a deep recession. As a result, the brands share of the U.S. market has climbed to 4.3 percent, up from 3.2 percent a year earlier.
Kathy Jackson contributed to this report