China wooed with exclusive cars
Korea’s two largest automakers unveiled new China-only concept models at the 2014 Beijing International Automotive Exhibition yesterday, which runs until April 29 at the China International Exhibition Center.
Hyundai’s ix25 concept car was shown for the first time in the world, while a new Genesis premium sedan made its Chinese debut.
“To become a brand that is really loved by Chinese customers, Hyundai Motor is taking on a new challenge,” said Choi Sung-kee, who manages Hyundai’s Chinese operations. “With the new Genesis and ix25, Hyundai Motor is preparing for the next 10 years.”
The ix25 is a small sport utility vehicle that Hyundai has developed exclusively for the Chinese market. This is the second China-only model after the Mistra midsize sedan that it released last year.
The ix25, created with Hyundai’s design philosophy of Fluidic Sculpture 2.0, is 4.27 meters (14 feet) long, 1.78 meters wide and 1.63 meters tall, with its wheelbase reaching 2.59 meters, according to Hyundai. It will be powered by a 2.0-liter Nu engine.
Hyundai said the letter “i” in the ix25 is supposed to signify inspiring, intelligence, innovation and I (myself), all of which encapsulate the confidence of the younger generation, while the letter “x” represents its new SUV design trend. The number 25 states the class of the car.
The automaker said the ix25 will start selling in the Chinese market in the second half of this year and that the vehicle completes its SUV lineup. The ix25 will be the smallest SUV, followed by the ix35 (known as the Tucson in Korea), the Santa Fe and Grand Santa Fe (known as the Maxcruz in Korea).
Hyundai selected actor Kim Soo-hyun, who is hugely popular in China because of his work on Korean dramas, as its ambassador for marketing the new car.
The automaker will also highlight the second-generation Genesis, which will also go on sale in China in the second half of the year.
“Along with the Equus, the new Genesis will play a big role in lifting Hyundai’s brand image in the premium market,” Hyundai said in a release. “We have made a special exhibition zone for the Genesis inside our own booth at the show.”
Hyundai said it will show a total of 18 cars, along with infotainment systems and engines, to highlight its latest technology at its 1,855-square-meter exhibition zone.
Hyundai’s smaller affiliate Kia also unveiled two models to attract Chinese customers. Korea’s second-largest automaker showed the K4 concept car for the first time.
The K4 is a midsize sedan with a “simple but profound” design under the concept of “Grand,” Kia said. The K4 is 4.72 meters long, 1.815 meters wide and 1.465 meters tall.
“It is the first Kia car in China to be equipped with a 1.6-liter turbo gasoline direct inject engine in combination with a seven-speed double clutch transmission,” the automaker said. “We will release the K4 in the second half based on this concept, targeting customers in their 30s and 40s.”
Kia also unveiled the K3S yesterday to boost China’s hatchback market. The company said the letter “S” stands for “sporty” and “stylish.”
The five-door hatchback has a length of 4.37 meters, a width of 1.78 meters and a height of 1.46 meters with a wheelbase reaching 2.7 meters. It targets customers in their 20s and 30s. It is equipped with a 1.6-liter D-CVVT engine and a six-speed automatic or manual transmission.
For the auto show, Kia will display 20 cars on 1,421 square meters. The company said that the highlight will be its new design exhibition zone named “Tiger Temple,” which is derived from Kia’s trademark design of a tiger-nose front grill.
This is the first time Kia has set up an exhibition zone to showcase its designs. The company said similar exhibition zones will be offered at auto shows in Busan, Paris and Guangzhou this year and will be regular features of future shows that Kia participates in.
Industry observers expect localized models to help Hyundai and Kia see more sales in China, which is the largest auto market in the world. Together, the automakers aim to sell 1.71 million units in China this year, up 8.4 percent from a year ago. So far, the sales in China in the first quarter indicate that these plans are going well. Hyundai and Kia sold a combined 440,150 units in the first three months, a 10.5 percent year-on-year increase.
Hsueh Yung-hsing, a former vice chairman who has been leading Hyundai Motor Group’s China operations for the last 11 years, abruptly resigned earlier this month, raising concerns about that part of the automaker’s business. It was rumored that the 69-year-old took responsibility for delays in Hyundai getting permission for a new plant in Chongqing, China. Other rumors said Hsueh’s network of contacts in China had become outdated.
BY JOO KYUNG-DON [firstname.lastname@example.org]