New Equus to appeal to masters of Korean universe
Hyundai Motor unveiled its latest Equus to defend its position in the market against luxury imports.
The nation’s largest automaker introduced the full-size luxury sedan Thursday. It was the first time since March 2009 that Hyundai gave a face-lift to its highest-end model.
The Lambda 3.8-liter and Tau 5.0-liter engines remain unchanged but the model has a new front grille, bumpers and fog lights. Hyundai said it also added LED full adaptive headlights, a blind spot warning system and head up display (HUD) as basic features.
It also reduced noise and vibration so that passengers in the back seat can have a more comfortable ride. Most Equus owners have chauffeurs and travel in the back.
Hyundai said the price of the new Equus will be between 64.89 million won ($59,947) and 146.72 million won, a slight increase from the previous edition. But the automaker said that since luxury features come as standard, the price hike is not that high.
To lure customers, Hyundai will also give out golf bags to those who buy Equuses until March. The company will also run special private showing at the gallery Nature Poem in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul, until next Wednesday.
Industry insiders think the market has gotten weary of the last Equus.
Equus sales were only 390 units last month, nearly one-third of February sales of 1,015 units. Its sales in the first 11 months of this year were only 8,569 units, a 31 percent decrease from a year ago.
The economic slowdown has affected sales for all luxury sedans, but combined sales of Equus’ main competitors - BMW’s 7-Series, Mercedes-Benz’s S-Class, Audi’s A8 and the Lexus LS - have only slipped about 2 percent compare to last year, according to data from Korea Automobile Importers and Distribution Association.
Hyundai said this is the right time introduce a new Equus as Korean companies announce reshuffles of their executives.
Corporate sales account for 74.4 percent of all Equus sales, according to Hyundai.
The automaker is hoping to sell 1,000 units this month.
“With the new model and a change of executive level personnel in companies, we believe Equus sales will increase from this month,” an employee from Hyundai said.
“We estimate that annual demand for luxury sedans is about 24,000 units in Korea,” he said, “and we hope the new Equus will take half of that figure next year.”
But foreign brands are also trying to gain market share in the so-called “Chairman’s car” segment.
Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota, introduced its new LS models - LS 460 and LS600h - last month. These two are full changes of the models after seven years, with half of their 6,000 core parts being replaced. The LS 600hL, a hybrid, is the world’s first model with all of its exterior lights run on LEDs, according to Toyota Korea.
Mercedes-Benz is counting on limited-edition models to keep customers happy until a new model of its S-Class will be introduced next year.
The German automaker added the S500 Long Designo Edition and S500 4MATIC Long Designo Edition last month to its existing S-Class lineup. These models come with Benz’s unique design and interior furnishing packages.
BMW, Korea’s best-selling foreign auto brand, already introduced a facelifted version of the 7-Series in September, first among Asian countries. BMW Korea said that all seven trims (730d, 730Ld, 740d xDrive, 740i, 740Li, 750Li and 750Li xDrive) of its 7-Series are equipped with 8-speed steptronic automatic transmission and fuel efficiency that’s 25 percent better on average than previous editions.
Audi also added three new trims in its A8 lineup in September after introducing A8 4.2 TDI Quattro, A8L 4.2 TDI Quattro and A8 4.0 TFSI Quattro. The 4.2 TDIs are the only luxury sedans in the local market with eight-cylinder diesel engines.
Meanwhile, some German brands are partnering with rental car companies to grab customers who are looking for long-term leases.
BMW and Audi recently inked deals with KT Kumho Rent-a-car, the nation’s No. 1 rental car company, to offer long-term rentals of their vehicles for corporate use.
According to KT Kumho, demand for corporate leases doubled in the last year.
By Joo Kyung-don [email@example.com]
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