Despite bleak forecasts, manufacturers ready new models

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Despite bleak forecasts, manufacturers ready new models

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From left: BMW’s 5 Series; Kia Motors’ GT concept car, on which the upcoming CK model is based; Genesis’ New York concept car said to resemble the yet-to-be-unveiled G70 midsize sedan; Renault Samsung’s Clio compact hatchback; [EACH COMPANY]

The Korean auto industry had a less than stellar 2016, but the coming year won’t be so easy either, according to a forecast by the group representing the country’s automakers.

The Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association projects that domestic sales this year will slip 2.8 percent to 1.75 million cars. Still, automakers are gunning for a breakthrough as they ready a string of new cars for 2017.

Hyundai Motor Group, the nation’s top automaker, will unveil three new models this year, according to industry sources. One of the most anticipated is the G70 midsize sedan, the third model under the company’s luxury brand Genesis. It’s expected to be the brand’s entry-level vehicle, with a relatively affordable starting price of 40 million won ($33,000).

The company said it will release six Genesis models through 2020, including three SUV models. Industry insiders expect the G70 to have a similar size as the Sonata.

Hyundai Motor is hoping to take advantage of the soaring global popularity of sport utility vehicles. Under the project name OS, the automaker said it would launch its first compact SUV model by the end of this year. The expected rivals are SsangYong’s Tivoli, Renault Samsung’s QM3 and GM Korea’s Trax.

After it launches in Korea, the next destination will be the North America market, a Hyundai Motor official said.

Production of the OS will take place at the company’s Ulsan plant. Construction has already begun Sunday to update facilities and modules to suit the OS model. Hyundai Motor has invested 220 billion won into the upgrade, according to the company.

In addition to the new models, Hyundai Motor will launch a facelifted version of the company’s steady-selling midsize Sonata sedan.

Kia Motors, the sister company of Hyundai and the nation’s No. 2 automaker, will launch its first sports sedan, codenamed CK. The model will be based on a concept car that Kia unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show. The production model will be unveiled at the upcoming Detroit auto show, which kicks off Jan. 8.

Kia will release renewed models of its compact Morning vehicle and subcompact Pride. The fully-revamped Morning will be released on Jan. 17.

GM Korea, which set a record sales figure in the domestic market last year, hopes to continue its successful streak by launching a fully electric Chevrolet Bolt that can run more than 380 kilometers (240 miles) on one charge, the longest distance per charge among electric vehicles available in Korea so far. GM Korea CEO James Kim said the car could “change the paradigm of the domestic electric car market” when it is released sometime in the next six months.

GM Korea is also launching an overhauled model of its midsize Cruze sedan on Jan. 17.

SsangYong Motor, a leading SUV maker in Korea, will launch a premium full-sized SUV called the Y400 based on a concept model unveiled at last year’s Paris Motor Show.

“With its powerful style and developed safety, it will be a flagship model for SsangYong Motor’s SUV lineup,” Choi Jong-sik, CEO of SsangYong Motor, said at the show.

A facelift version of SsangYong’s Korando C, a midsize SUV, begins sales today.

Renault Samsung Motors, which recorded its best performance last year since 2010 largely thanks to its SM6 and QM6 models, will enter two new segments: the compact hatchback and quadricycle. The Clio, a compact hatchback model, will launch in the first half of this year, followed by the Twizy, a two-seat electric city car.

“With these two brand-new models, Renault Samsung is going to keep up the innovative spirit,” said Park Dong-hoon, CEO of Renault Samsung Motors.

Few import cars are set to enter the Korean market this year, but the ones that are could be game-changers.

BMW is releasing the seventh generation of its best-selling 5 Series. It will be an all-new model upgraded to include a stronger autonomous driving system and lighter bodywork. The expected global launch date is February.

Mercedes-Benz, which ended BMW’s seven-year reign as the most popular import car brand in Korea last year, has two new cars: the GLC Coupe and the AMG E63 4Matic, a high-performing model of its E-class vehicle. The GLC Coupe will be available in the first half of 2017 and will complete Mercedes’ seven-SUV lineup.


BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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