Hyundai rolls out third-generation Tucson

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Hyundai rolls out third-generation Tucson

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Kwak Jin, second from right, executive vice president of the domestic sales division, unveils the redesigned Tucson SUV on Tuesday during a ceremony at the K Hotel in Seocho, Gangnam District, southern Seoul. [NEWSIS]

The stage for a small SUV battle among local automakers in the domestic market was set Tuesday with the start of sales for Hyundai Motor’s new Tucson.

In an unveiling ceremony at The-K hotel in Seocho District, southern Seoul, the nation’s leading automaker introduced the third-generation SUV that is the vehicle’s first makeover since 2009.

One of the most significant changes from its predecessor, the Tucson ix, is the new Tucson will be offered in two trims and the one that model that attracted more attention has a U2 1.7-liter diesel engine.

Since previous Tucsons had 2.0-liter engines, industry insiders say it reflects Hyundai Motor’s goal of expanding entry-level market share.

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The nation’s entry-level models have been led by Ssangyong Motor’s Tivoli, Renault Samsung’s QM3 and Nissan’s Qashqai.

Tivoli, developed with a 1.6-liter gasoline engine, is rated at 12 kilometers per liter (33.9 miles per gallon), while the QM3 has a 1.5-liter diesel engine that gets a segment-leading 18.5 kilometers per liter. The Tucson 1.7 diesel with a seven-speed dual clutch transmission is rated at 15.6 kilometers per liter.

The company said it expects the 1.7 diesel to attract customers in their late 20s, offering a pair of packages in Ara-blue and Sedona-orange interior and exterior colors. The company said it received 5,000 preorders through Tuesday and 49 percent of them were for 1.7 models, adding that 40 percent of the orders were from customers in their 20s and 30s. The starting price is 23.4 million won ($20,800).

“The SUV market is the one that is growing most quickly, about 12.2 percent annually,” said Goo Tae-hun, general manager of Hyundai’s domestic sales strategy team. “We tried to provide a model that can really meet customer demands.”

The company said the R2.0 diesel targets customers in their 30s, one of the biggest consumer groups in the small SUV market. Hyundai Motor expects the new Tucson to appeal to customers who recently fell in love with imported SUVs such as Volkswagen’s Tiguan 2.0 TDI, the most popular imported SUV in Korea last year with 8,106 units sold. The starting price for the 2.0 is 24.2 million won.

“This all-new Tucson includes Hyundai Motor’s most recent and high-end technologies in many features, including design, driving performance and safety,” said Kwak Jin, executive vice president of the domestic sales division. “We expect Tucson can respond to the current small SUV market trend that demands both high driving performance and high fuel efficiency.”

The company said it aims to sell 570,000 units, 45,000 in Korea. Tucson has been Hyundai Motor’s best-selling SUV with total sales of 3.75 million worldwide as of February.

The company, however, will not sell a gasoline engine Tucson in the country.

“Most customers buy diesel models when they purchase a small SUV,” said Kim Sang-dae, director of the domestic marketing group. The company added that demand for a 2.0-liter gasoline engine or bigger in the small SUV market is below 10 percent.

For the exterior, Hyundai Motor’s signature large hexagonal grille has been added along with LED daytime running lights. The model also offers an automatic emergency braking system for the first time among Korean SUVs and some other safety options, including smart parking assist and lane departure warning systems.

It looks like rivals will not just sit back and watch Tucson take customers.

Ssangyong Motor will introduce a diesel Tivoli in June and a long-body model in the second half of the year. Ssangyong sold 5,210 Tivolis in the January and February, and aims to sell 38,500 by the end of the year.

Renault Samsung has added the RE Signature, the highest trim level for its QM3 lineup and the 2015 edition of the QM5 SUV. The QM3 was one of company’s most popular cars last year. A total of 3,327 units were sold in December, but sales declined to 1,642 units in January and 567 in February after the Tivoli arrived on the scene in January.

In response, Renault Samsung said it will try to strengthen its premium segment lineup.

BY KWON SANG-SOO [kwon.sangsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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