India will be Hyundai’s small car hub

July 27th, 2008 - 12:54 pm ICT by IANS  

By Himank Sharma
New Delhi, July 27 (IANS) The $75-billion Hyundai Motors, the world’s fifth largest auto maker, has decided to make India its global hub for small cars, the company’s chief executive for the Indian market has said. “We have a very clear picture about the Indian market. We want to use India as our small car hub. India will be used for manufacturing and export of our small cars,” Heung Soo Lheem, managing director of Hyundai Motors India Ltd said.

“Our upcoming i20 model, which will debut in the Paris Motor Show in September, will be solely manufactured in India,” Heung, whose company is India’s second largest car maker after Maruti Suzuki, told IANS in an interview.

The automaker, which sells its cars in as many as 193 countries, had launched the i10 - its new offering in the “A” segment - last November. This car, too, is exclusively manufactured in India, he said.

The Hyundai executive said i20 is a hatchback sedan offering in the “B” segment. “This car will hit the Indian market in November,” he said, while rubbishing reports that the company will phase out the Santro and Getz, post i20 launch.

Santro, which is sold as Atos in Hyundai’s other markets, was used as the launch pad for the South Korean giant’s foray into the Indian automobile market over ten years ago.

“When i10 was launched, it was tagged as a successor to Santro. We will continue to have the cars in our ‘A’ segment. Similarly, i20 is not a successor to Getz. We will strengthen our line-up giving more options to our customers.”

Heung did not disclose the price at which the new car from the Hyundai stable will be sold in India, but indicated that it will compete with Skoda’s Fabia and Ford Fusion.

“We haven’t yet decided the pricing. It’ll be a little more than the Getz,” he said about the car which sells at between Rs.400,000 and Rs.600,000 in the Indian market.

The South Korean automobile giant sold 327,160 vehicles in India in 2007 and had doubled its assembly line at the Chennai plant to 600,000 units annually this January.

“We have set a target of 530,000 vehicles for the domestic as well as export market for this year,” Heung said. “But rising fuel prices and inflationary pressures are taking a toll on sales,” he added.

“June, especially, was a tough month for us. Issues like inflation, economic slowdown and skyrocketing oil prices led to slow sales. Credit was denied to our prospective customers because of tight monetary policy,” he said.

“Things are not particularly bright even right now. But we hope after Tuesday’s vote in the parliament, economy will pick its pace up.”

Hyundai Motors India - which counts actor Shahrukh Khan and tennis ace Sania Mirza as its brand ambassadors - is part of South Korea’s Hyundai Kia Motors Automotive Group, formed after the merger between Hyundai and Kia in 1998.

Kia - the official sponsor of the Australian Open grand slam tournament - has a presence in the European and North American markets apart from the domestic market in South Korea.

Kia and Hyundai do have overlapping interests in certain markets, but the group has no plans to launch the Kia brand in the India, Heung explained.

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