The Truth About Cars » Hyundai The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:48:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Hyundai New York 2014: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Live Shots Wed, 16 Apr 2014 21:52:24 +0000 2015-Hyundai-Sonata-10

Unveiled in South Korea last month, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata made its United States debut during the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The sedan, set to roll out of Hyundai’s Montgomery, Ala. plant this summer, offers an improved ride quality thanks to a stiffer chassis and lower co-efficient of drag. Up front, either a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-pot or turbocharged 2-liter put less power to the front wheels than the previous generation of engines, with the former creating 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque while the latter churning 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft torque. Both engines are forever linked to a six-speed automatic.

Those opting for the turbo-four can add the Sport trim to their Sonata, bringing bigger brakes, 18-inch alloy wheels, quad exhaust, and more aggressive bodywork to the package.

Stepping inside the sedan, those who test-drove the Genesis sedan may feel a sense of deja-vu thanks to the driver-oriented center stack. Meanwhile, Hyundai will be offering a number of safety conveniences for the Sonata, including blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Hyundai Genesis Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:51:20 +0000 photo (14)

When it comes to luxury cars, there are two factors, often mutually exclusive, that come into play: actual excellence and perceived prestige. Very often, the latter wins out. If you want to know why, ask anyone who bought a Maserati Quattroporte. Or a BMW 528i.

From 1997-2003 the BMW 5-series was the last word in four-door sedans. If you wanted the perceived prestige, then the big V8 cars were sure to impress bench racers and badge snobs. If you wanted actual excellence, you did not pass go, did not collect 282 horsepower, and you went right for the six cylinder cars.


When I think of the quintessential 5-Series, I think of the E39 525i or 530i. Neither was particularly fast. The cabin did have sumptuous leather and slabs of wood, but by and large it was still full of old school BMW touches like displays with orange illumination and dot-matrix looking typography, a dearth of cupholders and even *gasp* hard black plastic. And yet, they were all things to all people – comfortable commuter, ersatz school bus, peerless long-distance cruiser and even an engaging backroad scalpel.

In roughly a decade, we’ve regressed. You can now spend over $70,000 on an entry level BMW that has a turbo-four engine, just like your insurance broker’s Fusion or a soccer mom’s Santa Fe. And when you drive it, you realize that the 528i is not The Ultimate Driving Machine anymore, nor is it a positional good like the E60 cars were when the end of their life-cycle coincided with the Great Financial Crisis. The F10 528i is, in many respects, a very expensive, longitudinally oriented Camry.

Not much else in the segment is thrilling, however. The Audi A6 and Cadillac CTS are both saddled with 2.0T engines unbecoming of their relative station in life. The Mercedes-Benz E350 has a proper V6, but is softer than a Buick Lacrosse. The Lexus GS and Infiniti M are non-entities.

Nobody would have ever thought that the 2015 Hyundai Genesis would be upholding the mantle of excellence in the large rear-drive segment, but then again, nobody in 2003 would have expected that Hyundai would introduce this car – badged as a Hyundai, sold through the Hyundai dealer network – either.

As with the previous Genesis, the styling is handsome but derivative. If the old car looks like a reasonable facsimile of a Lexus, the new one looks like a reasonable facsimile of an Audi, styled within the framework of today’s emissions and safety regulations. The lack of aesthetic imagination would be all the more damning if it weren’t for the homogenization of everything else on the road, in both looks and driving experience.

Well, almost everything. The two-point-oh-tee engines infesting nearly every car from the C-segment on up are very helpful with meeting all kinds of regulation: CAFE, European emissions standards, EPA fuel economy tests and world market displacement taxes.

With the Genesis, Hyundai is focusing on three major markets: the United States, Korea, and China. That means no boosted fours. Instead, you have the choice of a 3.8L V6 (311 horsepower, 293 lb-ft of torque) or a 5.0L V8 (420 horsepower, 383 lb-ft of torque). The V6 actually loses 22 horsepower, though it gains 2 lb-ft, while the V8 drops 9 horsepower and picks up 7 lb-ft. Not particularly encouraging stuff, given that curb weight is up by about 150 lbs on rear-drive models.

Any doubts about performance dissipate once you’re behind the wheel. Both cars feel much faster than their predecessors, with the 5.0 V8 providing serious forward thrust and an aggressive bellow at higher rpms that sounds like a muffled version of Chrysler’s Hemi V8. Like the old E39 540i, the V8 Genesis is at its best when cruising rapidly in a straight line, tracking perfectly straight without any hands on the wheel, cruising below 2000 rpm in near silence while eating up miles of blacktop.

If you never got a chance to drive the 3.8L V6, you wouldn’t have any qualms about the 5.0′s dynamics. The V8 car isn’t overly engaging, with relatively numb steering, a rather slow turn-in and a grudgingly competent way of taking turns . The V6 is an entirely different animal, as distinct in character as the I6 E39s were from the 540i.

With two fewer cylinders and the engine sitting a bit farther back, the V6 Genesis responds with far more enthusiasm than the 5.0 While the steering isn’t particularly big on feel, there’s a much greater level of feedback from the front tires. Turn-in is quicker, and the whole car responds to inputs in a more enthusiastic manner. The V6 isn’t as effortlessly powerful as the big 5.0 V8, but it responds with enthusiasm, and its own soundtrack is engaging and even raw at higher revs. Nobody would ever complain about the lack of power from the 3.8L engine either. V6 models will have an optional all-wheel drive system developed with Magna, but seat time in that car will have to wait for a later date.

The weak link in the powertrain is the in-house 8-speed automatic transmission, which is neither as sporting nor as refined as the 8-speed ZF gearbox that is near-ubiquitous in today’s premium car offerings. Kudos to Hyundai for making their own in-house design, but ZF has set a very high bar with what might be the best gearbox on the market. And even 8-speeds can’t help save the Genesis from less than stellar fuel economy ratings (18/29/22 mpg city/highway/combined for the V6, 16/25/19 for the AWD model and 15/23/18 for the V8).

But all of this talk of high performance driving is largely academic. The things that the Genesis needs to excel at – namely, a comfortable ride, minimal NVH and a premium interior – are all tasks at which the Genesis acquits itself. There’s a bit of noise around the wing mirrors when traveling at speed, but road and wind noise is largely isolated. The new car manages to strike the appropriate balance between ride and handling as well. Chassis tuning by Lotus (yes, that Lotus) was a big part of Hyundai’s PR push, but driving on bumpy desert access roads and poorly-maintained streets in outlying towns displayed a compliant, well-sorted ride as the primary characteristic. When pushed, the Genesis responds as well as a two-ton luxury sedan could be expected to – more than its European competition can say for themselves.

In its attempt to ape the leading European and Japanese luxury cars, the Genesis can be optioned up with all kinds of the latest cutting edge technology: a lane-keep assist system (that was overzealous and a bit of a nuisance), radar-guided cruise control, haptic feedback through the steering wheel and even a CO2 sensor (which supposedly helps keep drivers from getting too drowsy).

And you don’t need any of it. The best Genesis is the one we spent the most time with – a basic 3.8 V6, with the smaller 8″ display screen, 18″ wheels and only a couple of rows of neatly organized buttons (no iDrive-esque controller like the fully loaded Ultimate Package cars). At $38,000, it’s closer in price to a Honda Accord V6 Touring than a BMW 528i. Both the Honda and the Hyundai are better examples of actual excellence than the now neutered 5er, but in the real world, few have the courage to put character before image. What a shame.

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Hyundai Sonata Fuel Economy Rating Found Lower Than Stated, Corrected Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:40:58 +0000 2014 Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai announced a correction in the upcoming 2015 Sonata’s fuel economy upon findings showing the economy figures to be lower than originally stated.

Reuters reports the sedan claimed a 6 percent-climb to 12.6 kilometers per liter, a figure based on tests at the automaker’s research center. However, government tests returned a 2 percent-climb of 12.1 kilometers per liter than the outgoing model.

Analysts, including Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade senior researcher Cho Chul, said the impact of the error and subsequent correction would be short-lived, having been announced prior to the new Sonata going on sale later this month in its home market:

This may have a short-term impact on its reputation. But for the longer term, it is better for Hyundai to take quick action before controversy erupts.

Both Hyundai and Kia are rebuilding their reputations regarding fuel economy after overstate figures in their respective lineups led to recalls and customer lawsuits, paying $395 million total in settlements in the United States in 2012 for over 1 million vehicles with erroneous mileage.

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2015 Hyundai Sonata Caught Nude In Home Plant Wed, 12 Mar 2014 18:37:20 +0000 2015-hyundai-sonata-lf-scooped-factory-3

New spy photos of the 2015 Hyundai Sonata have emerged showing the upcoming sedan fully nude in its home plant in South Korea.

The Korean Car Blog reports spy photographers have said the Sonata boasted a 2-liter T-GDI four-pot pushing 274 horsepower toward the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The new Sonata will make its official launch March 24.

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Hyundai To Challenge BMW, Mercedes With Genesis Sedan In Europe Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:55:32 +0000 2015 Hyundai Genesis

Set to be introduced to the European premium market at the Geneva Auto Show next week, the Hyundai Genesis will be aimed at establishing a foothold for the automaker in the market against BMW and Mercedes upon arrival in showrooms in June, particularly in Southern Europe, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Automotive News Europe reports Hyundai expects to sell 1,000 of the premium sedans to a targeted group of customers who are familiar with the brand, especially those ready to attach diplomat plates to their new purchase. No price has been announced thus far, though the automaker has pegged the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes E-Class as rivals to their Genesis.

Overall, Hyundai aims to increase their market share on the continent from 3.4 percent currently to 5 percent by 2020. Though sales fell 5.5 percent last month, there are already 6 million vehicles on the road, with 70 percent under seven years of age. Customer retention also increased, moving from 36 percent in 2010 to 50 percent in the present, which benefits Hyundai in Europe according to regional head Allan Rushforth:

Working on loyalty is really fundamental to the economics of our business, and the success of our business in Europe. We’ve been a conquest brand to get to this point, but we’ve got to evolve and mature to balance retention and conquest in the future.

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Sonata Quality Issues Drag Down Hyundai, R&D President Returns Thu, 27 Feb 2014 13:54:37 +0000 2011 Hyundai Sonata

Just as J.D. Power ranks Hyundai fifth from dead last over quality issues regarding the 2011 Sonata, the automaker’s research and development president, Kwon Moon-sik, returns to the fold three months after quitting over a number of quality issues within the product line.

Automotive News and Reuters report Hyundai holds 27th overall on J.D. Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study, with 169 problems per 100 vehicles surveyed. Though nothing was specified for the 2011 Sonata or the 2011 Elantra — the other car from 2011 that brought down Hyundai’s rank — the industry overall developed issues with engines and transmissions tied to advanced fuel-efficiency technologies, including turbocharging. The sedan’s issues are magnified due to its groundbreaking design and said technologies, shaking up the otherwise conservative midsize sedan segment on its way to becoming Hyundai’s top-selling vehicle.

Meanwhile, Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-koo has rehired R&D president Kwon Moon-sik to help right the ship as the next generation Sonata prepares to make its debut in South Korea next month, as the automaker said in a statement:

Given his expertise, experience and leadership skills, we reinstated president Kwon to enhance quality and R&D capability from scratch.

Hyundai also said they expect their dependability ratings to improve next year when the 2012 models are evaluated, though it was “very disappointed” the results of this year’s study, and is “examining every component of the score to determine root-cause solutions” for improving their product line and services.

Kwon, along with two other R&D executives, quit three months earlier over quality issues — such as those affecting the 2011 models — that led to massive recalls in the United States, South Korea and other market. He was also one of the top aides to Chung’s son, Chung Eui-sun. His replacement, Kim Hae-jin, will return to heading powertrain development.

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Hyundai, Mazda Eyeing Small Crossover Market Tue, 18 Feb 2014 14:30:14 +0000 2011_Mazda2_Touring_--_11-30-2010_2.jpg

The growing small crossover segment, featuring the likes of the Nissan Juke, Buick Encore, Honda Vezel and Kia Soul, may soon find two new players in the game as both Hyundai and Mazda have their eyes on the prize.

Automotive News Europe and Automotive News report the two automakers are planning to release subcompact CUVs of their own down the road, with Mazda tying theirs to the newly redesigned Mazda2 due out later this year. The crossover would slot underneath the current CX-5 in Mazda’s home market, and would be priced between 1.5 million and 2 million yen ($15,000 – $20,000 USD).

Mazda also aims to bring the mid-size CX-9 to Japan as soon as 2015 following its next redesign; both new models would expand the automaker’s crossover lineup to three vehicles in their home market.

Meanwhile, Hyundai’s subcompact crossover is in the study phase according to Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski:

We’re always looking at segments that we’re not in right now that maybe we should be based on where the market’s going. We’re very intrigued by this B-segment CUV.

Zuchowski also announced that his employer may also bring a smaller luxury sports sedan within a couple of years, which would form a trinity with the Equus and Genesis sedans.

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Hyundai Ready To Add Capacity After Two-Year Break Tue, 11 Feb 2014 17:00:59 +0000 Hyundai production line Alabama plant

After a two-year break in expansion mandated by Hyundai Motor Company Chairman Chung Mong-koo in order to avoid quality issues experienced by Toyota during their aggressive growing spurt in the 2000s, Hyundai and Kia are both looking through feasibilities studies to determine where to invest in expanding their manufacturing footprint.

Though the mandate is still in place, the expansion freeze is putting the pressure on both brands’ existing factories to produce more vehicles as it is. In 2013, Hyundai and Kia utilized 105 percent capacity of their factories around the globe, with those in the Southeastern United States running flat-out between 125 percent and 135 percent on two shifts per day.

Sources closes to the expansion plans noted the current ban, though highly beneficial to the parent automaker’s bottom line, is ultimately unsustainable for future success; Hyundai aims to sell nearly 8 million units globally in 2014, and expansion into Mexico and China — and possibly the U.S., though through a cautious approach due to tougher competition in a tight market — would help move the goal post past 8 million

The renewed interest in expansion comes as costs in labor and languid growth prospects in the automaker’s home market are prompting competitors — such as General Motors — to cut back on manufacturing and export, something Hyundai refuses to contemplate. Thus, the search for “investment opportunities” outside of a local market set to peak at 1.6 million sales annually through 2020 beginning in 2016, including three sites in China, whose local market could see 33 million to 38 million sales annually by 2020.

If approved, the fourth Chinese factory would be Hyundai’s first major manufacturing capacity investment since opening their third plant in 2012 alongside one in Brazil, both announced prior to the expansion ban in 2010 and 2008, respectively.

That said, Chung could veto any new expansion investment should such plans be presented.

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Hyundai Canada Settles Class Action Fuel Economy Suit Wed, 29 Jan 2014 17:00:50 +0000 2011 Hyundai Elantra Build Sheet

Hyundai Auto Canada reached a settlement with consumers in a class action lawsuit over exaggerated fuel economy numbers among their Hyundai and Kia lineup of vehicles, paying a total of $46.65 million CAD ($41.85 million USD) in the deal, according to just-auto.

Under the terms of the settlement — affecting current and former owners and lessees of 130,000 Hyundai and Kia models made between MY2011 and MY2013 — consumers can either take a one-time payment based on type of vehicle affected, or remain in an existing reimbursement program Hyundai started in late 2012 after the automaker restated fuel economy ratings. The program covers additional fuel costs associated with the adjustment, along with a 15 percent premium in acknowledgement of the inconvenience over the issue so long as the vehicle is in the possession of the owner or lessee.

Those who take the lump sum will receive the payment minus previous reimbursements from the program. Other options available include a dealership credit of 150 percent of the lump sum, and a 200 percent credit of the cash amount towards the purchase of a new Hyundai or Kia.

Though Hyundai’s Canadian wing has its ducks in a row, their operations in the United States are still in the class action process after the Environmental Protection Agency announced fuel economy overstatements made by the automaker, as well as subsequent adjustments to the fact.

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Honda, Nissan, Toyota Set Production Record Against Weakening Yen Thu, 23 Jan 2014 16:32:38 +0000 Toyota Baja California Assembly Line

As the yen weakened against the dollar for a second consecutive year, Honda, Nissan and Toyota all set production records in their North American plants in 2013, according to Automotive News.

Outputs for the trio last year include 1.86 million units for Toyota, 1.78 million for Honda, and 1.47 million for Nissan, though gains on the production line didn’t match sales in the United States. However, exports took up the slack in U.S. showrooms, with more units sent to growing markets such as South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Latin America.

As far as individual models are concerned, Honda built 466,695 Accords at their Marysville, Ohio plant in 2013, around 20,000 more than the number of Camrys Toyota workers at the automaker’s Georgetown, Ky. plant.

The Japanese Three expanded their presence in North America as insulation against a falling yen, which fell 17.6 percent against the dollar in 2013 after falling 11 percent in 2012, as well as protection from overseas production disruptions that could affect North American output. In fact, Honda will soon open a plant in Celaya, Mexico to build the Fit, with the long-awaited 2015 NSX to be assembled in an experimental plant in Marysville.

Regarding Hyundai and Kia, the two South Korean automakers set a few records of their own in North America, including 399,495 Sonatas and Elantras leaving Hyundai’s Montgomery, Ala. plant, and 105,647 Santa Fes rolling out of the Kia line in West Point, Ga.

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Hyundai, Kia See Weakest Annual Sales Growth in a Decade Thu, 02 Jan 2014 16:59:53 +0000 kia-k900-la-auto-show-14

2014 may only be a day old, but it’s already shaping up to be a rough year for Hyundai and Kia as they prepare to increase global sales by just 4 percent this year, the lowest and bleakest forecast for the Korean duo since 2003.

Though the foreseen growth will be fueled by revamped models and increased production in China, and is in line with overall projected global sales in 2014, a stronger won and weaker yen — the latter brought about by Japan’s desire to support its export industry and to find a way out of the 20-year trek through the economic wilderness — have eroded the price advantage Hyundai and Kia held over their Japanese competitors.

While the duo experienced market growth in Brazil and China last year, they lost market share in both their home market and in the United States, the former through a free trade pact between the European Union and South Korea. Sales in 2013 totaled 7.56 million units worldwide, with a total projection of 7.86 million going forward in 2014.

Shares of the parent automaker haven’t fared well in the outgoing year, advancing only 8 percent against GM’s 41 percent and Toyota’s 60 percent surges on the trading floor.

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Hyundai Battles Skoda For Czech Republic Thu, 02 Jan 2014 12:00:37 +0000 Hyundai i30 3D

While Skoda has long been the Cinderella story of the Czech Republic, Skoda could soon find itself deposed as sovereign of their domestic auto market.

In an effort to boost their market share in the Czech Republic to 15 percent by the end of the decade, Hyundai has pursued a “going-native” strategy. The strategy ranges from sponsoring the national soccer team and promoting its factory (where 72 percent of Hyundai’s models sold in the country are assembled, employing 3,500 to build 300,000 units annually), to dealers displaying Skoda’s new Octavia in their showrooms alongside Hyundai’s i30 and i40 models so consumers can comparison-shop right then and there.

The result? Hyundai holds 9.6 percent of the Czech market, up from 3.6 percent ten years prior. Skoda, on the other hand, fell from 48 percent to 30 percent in the same period. However, the original home team has pushed back hard with their own war plan, sponsoring the national hockey team, launching eight new models for the 2014 model year, and relying upon tradition to keep one-third of their homeland’s market.

Like Hyundai, Skoda has a goal of increasing their European sales to 5 percent of the market by the end of the decade; Hyundai currently has 3.5 percent, Skoda holds 4.1 percent.

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Chevrolet U.S. Marketing Chief Chris Perry Resigns Fri, 20 Dec 2013 04:22:05 +0000 General Motors Vice President Global Marketing Chris Perry

Following on the heels of General Motors CEO Dan Akerson’s recent resignation, Chevrolet’s chief marketing officer for the United States Chris Perry has called it a day effective immediately.

Perry came aboard from Hyundai in 2010 through former GM chief marketing officer Joel Ewanick, going through numerous title shifts until the automaker hired former Volkswagen of America executive Tim Mahoney as the Bow Tie’s global chief marketing officer last spring.

Prior to his hiring, Perry was Hyundai’s top U.S. marketing executive after Ewanick left for GM. The duo were responsible for the Korean automaker’s Hyundai Assurance program, allowing customers who financed or leased out a new Hyundai to return the model within a year should the customer lose their income.

Regarding Chevrolet, Perry spearheaded both the Tim Allen-voiced “Chevy Runs Deep” ad campaign — since replaced by the “Find New Roads” theme after customers didn’t take a shine to the depths of the golden bow tie — and the ongoing “Under the Blue Arch” retail campaign, where fictional characters promote Chevrolet’s lineup.

GM has yet to announce a successor.

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Hyundai Casts Aside Conquest For Quality in Europe Thu, 12 Dec 2013 12:45:54 +0000 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior

Though Hyundai has set its sights on some sales gains in 2014 in the European market, the automaker has no plans to defend market share to the death, opting for repeat business rather than taking the Germanic approach of volume at all costs.

Hyundai’s European COO Allan Rushforth told Automotive News that the automaker is shifting from being a conquest brand to a loyalty brand, offering financing options for their European customers as one incentive in returning. Rushforth noted that Hyundai’s approach is on the cautious side, due mainly to the current competitive environment maintaining its stranglehold on the market for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, Hyundai aims to offer 22 new or updated models to the European auto market by 2017, such as new versions of the i10 minicar and Genesis sedan, with the goal of boosting their market and mind share to 5 percent. They also plan to build 90 percent of their European lineup in factories all over the continent by then, with 70 percent of the lineup’s components to be derived from local sources.

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Review: Hyundai Santa Fe Limited Tue, 03 Dec 2013 14:05:20 +0000 DSC_4453A recent conversation with a blubber-lined autojourno archetype:

He: “What’re you driving this week?”

Me: “2014 Hyundai Santa Fe Limited”

He: “I hate crossovers. People should just buy wagons. In Europe…blahblahblah…diesel…estate….shooting brake…nomnomnom…where’s the bar?”

Koo-Koo-Ka-Choo, my friend The Walrus doesn’t get it.

I avoided conflict by changing the subject, but I should have told him this: “The 2014 Santa Fe Limited is not for you. Neither is that brown E-Class wagon you will never afford. If you like the European way of life so much, move there. They have funny underwear, so enjoy your man-panties. Over here, the crossover is sticking around for a while.”

The math is simple. People want crossovers. Car companies make money by building what people want. That means lots of crossover choices. The end.

Besides, if wagons all of a sudden became the next big thing, people would hate them. That’s how it used to be. If you hate crossovers or offer the “if you want a truck, get a truck, if you want a wagon, get a wagon” argument, they’re not for you. Crossovers like the 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe are for THEM.

THEY are the folks with kids and dogs and fully-scheduled weekends. Rising stars who not only need to spend money, but have money to spend. Of course the Santa Fe isn’t likely at the top of any driving enthusiast’s list, but it ticks all the boxes for the Alternadult.

That word mashup is Hyundai’s own creation to describe the Persona used during the development of the Santa Fe. If that’s led you to ask “what’s a Persona?”, here we go.
Personas are a way to humanize your target audience, and they’re widely used by makers of consumer goods. For example, Ford created 28 year old Antonella, a Roman club rat to help focus development of the Verve, a concept car that previewed the current generation Fiesta. That’s probably why it’s got neat little cubbies for your stash of Molly.

From toothpaste and orange juice (reverse that order for less gag reflex) to tablets and even tableware, bringing the demographic information to life gives everyone a bag of bones to develop products for and determine how to get them to buy. Personas are why bloviating car reviewers are peeing into the wind when it comes to crossovers. Hyundai did its homework, and it appears to be working. Just count the Santa Fes the next time you’re at the grocery store on a weekend.

Hyundai wants to boost its sales by 10 percent for 2014, and the Santa Fe is key to that. I’m noticing more of these because they’re selling well. Santa Fe sales are up significantly; 36 percent in October 2013, and nearly 20,000 more Santa Fes have found buyers this year.

So who is this Alternadult and why develop a vehicle for them? After all, the selfish-ass Baby Boomers are still exerting big influence over the car business. Here’s what Hyundai has to say about it:

Hyundai has historically done well with younger singles and older families, but an opportunity existed to create a vehicle that would capture younger, higher income families. We knew that Santa Fe could be that relevant and modern product for this emerging persona.

Translation: There was a lucrative hole in the Hyundai customer demographic. Poor youngsters and value-minded older families are steady, even loyal business, but that vast, meaty middle is where the money is drifted deep enough to shovel. These people have needs and the means to address them in a way that tickles their wants at the same time.

Hyundai continued:

The target for Santa Fe was someone we ultimately referred to as the “Alternadult.” They are Gen Xers who were “latch key kids” and gained independence early. That spirit of independence has brought them success in life; they are doing well for themselves but also have a strong family focus. For them, a successful life is measured by more than just money, it is also about being there for their kids to pass along their values and their passions. Exploring and learning together with their kids is key. It’s also important that their kids ultimately be “street smart” as well as “book smart.”

This persona needed a product that could deliver on all fronts and enable their active, family-centric lifestyle: distinctive styling, technology, quality, craftsmanship, a sense of premium-ness without stuffiness, spaciousness, and safety. That is what inspired Hyundai to set out to create a product that would deliver an uncompromised combination of class-leading design and technology, quality, durability, and functionality. It challenges what a CUV can and should be, uniting functional utility and style and sophistication – both interior and exterior.

So, the Alternadults are occupying the space in the marketplace Boomers did 30 years ago. Remember the early 1980s? Minivans. Crossovers are the minivan of the post-Baby-Boom middle-ager. For a family buyer who needs to take three different sub-ten-year-olds to two different schools for 9 months of the year and then traipse to soccer, gymnastics, and dance all back-to-back on the weekend, the Hyundai Santa Fe Limited delivers.

Don’t start with how your beloved Panther-platform Fords and fundamentally-horrible W-body Impalas with bench seats would work a treat for that. Because no. Families want more than just enough seats. They want space for the stuff of everyday life, plus maybe a dog with extra-humid breath, too. You know, features that make it easy to go over hill and dale, and wrap it in some style, too, please.

Part of the draw of the Santa Fe is the way it’s drawn. The crisp lines look expensive, and because it looks great in a vaguely-European luxury kind of way, and it’s outfitted well, it’s easier to have higher regard for the Santa Fe Limited. It’s a get up that’s equally stylish tailgating, or in the parking garage at Nordstrom, or with “SENIORS 2013 YEAAAAHAHHHH” written all over the windows. That’s good design. It looks like a million bucks but it sure doesn’t cost it.
That doesn’t mean the Santa Fe Limited is exactly inexpensive. Mention that you’re driving a $41,000 Hyundai and people will roll their terrible eyes and gnash their terrible teeth. Of course, any Hyundai costing that much is loaded. The Santa Fe Limited starts at $35,540 with all-wheel drive. The same basic vehicle with fewer standard features and front-wheel drive is the $29,800 Santa Fe GLS. Regardless of trim, a 290 hp 3.3 liter V6 is your prime mover, the only transmission is a six-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive is a $1750 upgrade over front-wheel drive.

The Hyundai thing has long been the automotive version of a Golden Corral gut-busting dinner. Instead of steak, lobster, orca and mollusk for $9.95, the Santa Fe Limited I drove was a three-row crossover that will play nice and can stand up to the corrosive effects of children for $41,155. With features by the pound, the Santa Fe is very good at fending off competitors.

The Limited trim level’s standard features outfit you like a $40,000 vehicle for about $35,000. The Santa Fe Limited I drove also carried the Technology package, a $4,850 hunk of HIDs, LEDs, touchscreen navigation, ventilated seats, Infinity audio, panoramic roof, 115-volt outlet and parking assist that slides the price across the $40,000 threshold.

This used to be where the Hyundai story ended, “you get a lot of stuff for less money in a vehicle that’s also generally less good.” That is no longer the case. The Santa Fe is a strong competitor on price, and the technology and features you get are mature and well-developed. The touchscreen navigation is easy to use and the audio and climate systems have a mild learning curve compared to systems like MyFordTouch. The touchscreen doesn’t dim quite enough to satisfy me for night driving, but you can easily shut the display off to reduce cabin light pollution. The mind does wander to consider how long the leather-wrapped steering wheel is going to feel nice in your grip and just when the seats are going to start getting scruffy or the trim marred up, but the Santa Fe packs one of the nicer interiors in the class.

The 3.3 liter V6 has spirited enthusiasm, especially when you let it rev, and the six-speed auto is generally unobtrusive, The transmission thinks too much in situations you’d expect it to just bang through the gears, like merging onto a highway. There seemed to be some extra dithering going on with power delivery. THEY are probably not going to notice that, but I did, and I’m one of THEM. The Santa Fe isn’t going to win you any pinks, and it may feel winded if you drive the larger-engined competition back-to-back, but on its own, it’s at least solidly adequate if you don’t mind waiting.
Another historical Hyundai shortcoming has been chassis tuning. The Santa Fe does not feel like the ‘92 Buick LeSabre was the benchmark, nor does it crash over bumps like previous attempts at chassis discipline. The structure feels more solid than ever before and the ride and handling balance is good. There’s the occasional jarring impact, stuff that doesn’t happen in the crushingly-heavy GM Lambdas, Camry-based Toyota Highlander or Ford Explorer. The Santa Fe is lighter on its feet and more economical than the GM three-rows, miles ahead of the departing 2013 Highlander in terms of cabin materials and fit and finish, and more space-efficient than the Volvo XC90-based Explorer and its blatant built-to-a-cost first impression.

The closest competitor for the Santa Fe is probably the Nissan Pathfinder. Both have grown to fit the same niche of easy-living three-row. The Pathfinder returns better fuel economy thanks in part to a more hateful CVT centric driving experience. The Santa Fe is a winner in most other measures, from styling to price/features to driving dynamics. There’s something more like steering feel in the Santa Fe, partially due to the FlexSteer selectable assist, and it feels less like a relaxed-fit metal box than the Pathfinder.

You can love wagons all you want, you can hate crossovers even more, but in terms of being in the right place at the right time with the right product, Hyundai has a solid entry with the Santa Fe. In Limited trim, feature-conscious buyers have a place to go that’s not fraught with penalties for seeking value. It’s feature-packed in an environment where it’s hip to get more for your dollar. The Santa Fe even gets high marks for resale value. It’s nothing that’s going to send you over the moon when you drive it, but I didn’t hate life behind its wheel. It’s certaily set up as an ideal life-support vehicle for its Alternadult target, and at least now I have a markety-speak thing to call myself.

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Los Angeles 2013: Hyundai’s Veloster Turbo R-Spec “Reverses” Halo For Automaker Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:13:11 +0000 Hyunda Veloster Turbo R Spec 01

Bowing at the LA Auto Show is the Veloster Turbo R-Spec, aimed at pulling in tuner-oriented shoppers through a halo inversion designed to, someday, have them drive away in a Genesis sedan.

The R-Spec is driven by a 1.6-liter turbo-4 pumping out 201 horses and 195 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels, and weighs just 2,800 lbs thanks to a severe dieting regimen that actually removed luxury amemities from the base Veloster Turbo. Not only does this diet keep the price down, but it also allows the R-Spec to do 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway.

In return, the R-Spec was given a B&M short shifter, higher spring rates all around, torque vectoring control to keep the turbo hamster from going off the road in a hard corner, and a healthy dose of red, from the front splitter to the leatherette seats.

The price of admission? Just $22,110, making the R-Spec the most affordable turbo Veloster around.

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Los Angeles 2013: Hyundai Triples the Fun in LA With Elantra Lineup Thu, 21 Nov 2013 02:24:09 +0000 2014 Hyundai Elantra GT 01

Hyundai unveiled their entire 2014 Elantra lineup at the LA Auto Show with the aim of introducing to the world their much-improved elements of fun driving.

At the heart of the improvement drive is the swap from the 1.8-liter engine to a 2-liter four-pot pushing 173 horses out the front door with 154 lb-ft of torque to back them up. The Elantras also boast sport-tuned steering and calibrated suspension for more go-kart handling down Highway 101.

For those opting for the coupe, only one trim will be offered, with the only options being choice of color and Hyundai’s Technology Package. The 2014 version of said package comes with Blue Link and Hyundai Assurance Connected Care, LED-accented lights up front and full LEDs in the back, and satnav with Pandora streaming radio integration.

Those who prefer more room in their Elantra will find the GT’s passenger and cargo volume to their liking, while the driver’s knees will be protected by a driver knee airbag in the event of a wreck. A hidden rear camera is also available for parallel parking.

Finally, sedan customers will have a sporty option with the Elantra Sport, which will come standard LED lighting, chrome belt line molding, and a single chrome exhaust tip.

2014 Hyundai Elantra Coupe 01 2014 Hyundai Elantra Coupe 02 2014 Hyundai Elantra Coupe 03 2014 Hyundai Elantra GT 01 2014 Hyundai Elantra GT 02 2014 Hyundai Elantra GT 03 2014 Hyundai Elantra Sedan 01 2014 Hyundai Elantra Sedan 02 2014 Hyundai Elantra Sedan 03 ]]> 8
Review: 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT (Video) Fri, 02 Aug 2013 21:54:30 +0000 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

By pure happenstance I ended up with an Elantra GT immediately after reviewing the 2014 Kia Forte sedan. As I said last week in the Forte review, the Elantra and Forte are related, but this isn’t a case of Korean badge engineering. It’s far more complicated. The Forte is the new kid on the block while the Elantra has been around for a few years. At this stage in life, Hyundai is trying to inject vitality into the Elantra name by adding new models. First we got the four-door sedan, then a two-door coupé followed by the Veloster which is just a four-door hatchback Elantra (yes, I know Hyundai calls it a three-door, but I know better). If you’re confused by door counts, the new Elantra GT is a five-door. Say what?

About “them doors.”  We all know a sedan is a four-door because a trunk isn’t a door. (Despite our exclusive Trunk Comfort Index testing.) Likewise we call the Elantra Coupe a two-door but toss a hatch into the mix and, hey-presto, your cargo portal is a door. How does the Veloster fit in? It has three regular doors (two on one side, one on the other) and a hatch. Thankfully Hyundai killed off the awkward looking Elantra Touring wagon leaving nothing to go head to head with the Mazda3 hatch, Focus hatch and Golf. That’s where the GT fits in.

Click here to view the embedded video.


Adding the GT to the lineup puts Hyundai in the unusual position of having more variants of their compact vehicle than any other brand in the USA, and that’s even if you don’t count the Veloster as an Elantra. Part of this is to give customers options the other brands don’t, but it is also to extend the life of the aging Elantra. In 2010 when the Elantra splashed on the scene it was new and exciting, but this is a fiercely competitive segment. In the past three years, the Civic, Forte, Golf and Mazda3 have all been redesigned bringing new and exciting shapes to choose from. In this light the Elantra’s front end is starting to look a old to my eyes, especially when you park it next to the aggressive new Forte. Speaking of that elephant in the room, that 2014 Forte 5-door looks all kinds of hot.

Park the GT next to an Elantra sedan and you’ll notice this isn’t a sedan with a hatch glued on. Instead, the GT rides on a 2-inch shorter wheelbase shared with the Veloster. Along with the reduced wheelbase, Hyundai sliced nearly 9-inches off this sausage slotting the GT between the Veloster and Elantra sedan in overall size. The shorter dimensions made parking the GT easy in tight urban settings even though the GT retains the Elantra’s 34.8-foot turning circle. Despite the platform nip/tuck the GT is the heaviest Elantra variant at a still svelte (well, relatively speaking) 2,745lbs with the manual transmission.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


I took me a few moments to figure out what was going on with the GT’s interior. At first glance the dashboard and controls are familiar, yet this isn’t the same dashboard the Elantra coupé/sedan, or the Veloster. Gone is the “hourglass” center console in favor of a HVAC controls that are larger and easier to use. Our tester had the optional dual-zone climate control system which rearranges the buttons and adds a large blue-backlit display. Although the steering wheel has simply been tweaked with satin “metal” trim, the rest of the interior trappings are a notch above the Elantra sedan and coupe and, depending on where your fingers brush, a notch above the Veloster as well. This is fortunate because with even the Civic going up-market for 2013, the GT could have left the gates at a disadvantage. Thanks to the plastic upgrades, the GT is firmly “middle of the pack.”

Even though the GT is notably shorter and slightly taller than the sedan, folks up front won’t notice much difference. The seats are still supportive and comfortable, but not as easy on the back as the 2013 Civic. You might think the wheelbase reduction would play havoc with rear accommodations but the back seats have slightly more room than in the sedan. Some of that room is thanks to rear seats with a more upright and comfortable profile and some of it comes at the expense of the front seats which get a one inch reduction in travel for GT duty. Getting in and out of those rear seats is easy thanks to large and fairly square door openings. With 23 cubic feet of widget space behind the rear seats and 51 with the rear seats folded, the GT is the most practical Elantra since the dowdy Elantra Touring was mercy killed.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Interior, Infotainment, Navigation, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


The GT may be new for 2013, but the technology is a few years old. Base shoppers may not mind the lack of progress because the standard 6-speaker audio system is one of the best standard audio systems in this segment. The 170 watt system comes with standard AM/FM/XM radio, a single-slot CD/MP3 player, Bluetooth speakerphone and USB/iPod integration. Sadly you won’t find SYNC-like voice command of your tunes or Pandora streaming, but the system has a natural sound and is easy to use.

High-rollers (like me) won’t be able to live without a touchscreen nav unit, but I was disappointed to find the GT doesn’t get the new 8-inch BlueLink system from the Santa Fe. Instead we find the 7-inch “last generation” system found in the regular Elantra. It’s not that the system is objectionable, it just lacks the snazzy new voice commands and smartphone integration ability you find in other Hyundai products. That new Kia Forte hatchback keeps popping in my mind because the 2014 Forte models get the latest Hyundai/Kia infotainment software with smartphone apps, 911 crash notification, vehicle diagnostics and full voice commands for your music library.

Hyundai Elantra GT 1.8L Engine, Picture Courtesy of Hyundai


Under the GT’s short hood beats the same 1.8L four-cylinder engine as the Elantra sedan. Unfortunately this mill doesn’t get Hyundai’s direct-injection sauce so power is rated at a middling 148 ponies and 131 lb-ft. In an interesting twist Hyundai allows you to select the 6-speed manual or the 6-speed automatic regardless of your trim level. This puts the Elantra a cog ahead of the Civic and a few other competitors. When you factor the additional weight of the GT model over the sedan it’s obvious performance is muted. When weight goes up, fuel economy goes down and so it is with the GT. The Elantra sedan scores a respectable 28/38/32 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) with the manual or automatic while the GT drops to 26/37/30 with the manual and 27/37/30 with the automatic. Our real world economy ended up a few steps lower at 28.2 MPG overall, notably lower than the Elantra sedan’s 32.1 MPG score last time I had one.

I spent most of the week inside the 6-speed automatic GT but I was able to hop in a manual equipped version for a few hours because I was intrigued by Hyundai’s decision to sell a row-your-own option on all trims. The automatic is obviously going to be the most popular option and will suit most drivers just fine. Hyundai has continually improved the feel of their slushbox and is now among the best in terms of shift feel and programming. While I like the feel of this 6-speed over Nissan’s CVT, 131 lb-ft would more easily motivate 2,800lbs if it was routed via a CVT. Just sayin… The 6-speed manual still lacks the refinement you’ll find in the VW Golf and the clutch feel is a notch below the Focus that’s a moot point if you want all the tech gadgets and a manual transmission in the same hatch. This is your only option.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture COurtesy of Alex L. Dykes


The manual transmission is worth noting because the Elantra GT is much more of a driver’s car than any other Elantra, including the coupé. This is primarily because Hyundai significantly improved torsional rigidity when compared to its platform mates. Also tweaked were the springs and dampers for a tighter and more composed ride than its siblings. The changes are noticeable and make the sedan feel like a damp noodle in comparison. Hyundai seems to have found the right balance between sporty and soft when it comes to the ride with the GT feeling neither jarring nor marshmallowy soft. If road holding manners matter the most, the GT slots below certain Ford Focus models and VW’s Golf. On the rubber front we get 205/55R16 tires standard and an optional upgrade to 215/45R17s (as our tester was equipped) to improve grip. The larger rubber is part of the $950 “touch-and-go” package which nets you keyless-go, the larger wheels, aluminum pedals and a leather wrapped wheel and shift knob. Out on my favorite mountain highway the GT was a team player with more grip and composure than I expected. The steering? That’s another matter.

The Elantra GT gets Hyundai’s latest personalization option: adjustable steering assist. By pressing a button on the steering wheel you can select from three different steering effort settings on the fly. Yes, even mid-apex. Let’s get one thing clear: none of the modes will do anything to improve steering feel. In Comfort mode the GT is hopelessly over-boosted at speed but oddly doesn’t make give you feather-light steering in the parking lot. When in this mode it is all too easy to crank the wheel too far in a corner and end up constantly re-adjusting. Normal is a hair better. Sport is lifeless but firm. I spent my week in Sport.

2013 Hyundai Elantra GT Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I notice most reviews of the GT bemoan the “unusually loud” backup camera that pops out of the Hyundai logo on the trunk lid. Bucking the trend I don’t see a problem with this given the GT’s price tag of $18,545-$25,440. Similarly equipped the Ford Focus 5-door lands $1,800 more expensive and the VW Golf is $3,000lbs dearer. If however you factor in the Focus and Golf’s more powerful engines and better road manners, I’d call that difference much smaller. The smaller the delta becomes, the harder it is for me to look past the small things about the Elantra GT that bothered me during the week like the older infotainment software. If you can look beyond all of that, the 9.05 second 0-60 score is something you have to keep in mind because the Elantra GT is among the slowest hatches we have tested in a while.

Still, the GT is a cheaper option and that speaks to my budget-minded nature. But there are still two problems: the 2014 Kia Forte hatchback and the 2014 Mazda3 hatchback. The Forte’s newer underpinnings, more powerful engine, sexier sheetmetal and snazzier infotainment options are likely to be priced neck-and-neck with the Elantra GT. In addition to all that the Forte is likely to be the more engaging ride on the road based on our time with the Forte sedan. Then there’s that new Mazda3 with a two-engine lineup, available iLoop “almost hybrid” system, class leading 30/40MPG rating and a Mazda reputation for excellent road manners. Yes, those cars are still a few months off, but that just means the Elantra GT in the unfortunate position of being a value leader for a limited time only. What could Hyundai do to fix it? If they could jam their 270HP 2.0L turbo under the hood at a reasonable price…


Hyundai provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.06 Seconds

0-60: 9.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.84 Seconds @ 81.7 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 28.2 over 549 miles


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Hyundai HB20, Brazilian Spec: Here She Comes Now Singing Moanie Moanie Thu, 03 Jan 2013 13:25:54 +0000

The fluidic design of the HB20 has impressed Brazilians greatly. The car has already broken into the top 10, and Hyundai claims there are 24 thousand people who have already ordered one and have plunked down some money. Undeniably, the car is a looker. In my opinion, the side is the highlight. That swoosh is very appealing. As for the front, you either like the corporate mug or you don’t, and I don’t. The back has some problems. This is a problem in Brazil. We are into backs. This one makes the car look narrower and taller than it really is and some of the lines are clashing. In general, the car is well-built, but it’s not perfect. The example I drove had misaligned doors.

Inside, Hyundai promised that the HB20 would be competitive with higher segment cars. At first glance it is. The shapes and some color are there. However, after a more tha perfunctory glance, the plastics reveal themselves. They are hard and look cheap. They’re no fun to touch, either.

The seats are ok, but the fabric on them is cheaper than on competitors and even on lesser cars. The switchgear is not a notch above the competition, as Hyundai has claimed. Those found in a Volkswagen Gol, for example, feel more solid.

I had been to the dealer. I had sat in a few. Finally, I got to drive it. Equipped with the same 120 hp present in other Hyundai-Kia products and a 5 speed manual, the car never felt specially lively or obedient. The steering lacks almost any feel and I felt it was quite tiring for anything but city driving. Push the car over 90 km/h (56 mph) and it gets so light that I didn’t feel I wanted more.

The car does not want to be pushed. It creaks. It shakes. It moans. Moans. The suspension arms are too short for Brazil, and it reaches its limit (with a thud) at almost every speed bump at almost any speed. Minor potholes turn into major problems. In the twisties the car feelks like it wants to roll over. There’s no point driving the car hard, it’s not built for that. In the city, drive with care, or the car’s protestations will be your constant companion.

The engine of course has been flexibilized for Brazil. This means it’ll run on ethanol or Brazilian gas. It’s a little gruff when at higher RPMs and the sounds it makes are not really enticing. An owner of the car reported that he’s getting the same mileage as he did on his 1.6 Sandero, roughly 8km/l on gas and 6km/l on ethanol in heavy (and hilly) city driving. As far as Brazilian cars go, that’s about average.

So there you have it, the Hyundai HB20. If you want a car to show off to the neighbors and drive slowly around the city, this is the car for you. If, however, you like driving and enjoy the occasional romp, you will be much better served elsewhere.




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Global Auto Sales 2013: What Do Toyota And Hyundai Know We Don’t? Wed, 02 Jan 2013 13:14:50 +0000

Auto sales are expected to have ended the year up by around 5 percent. This according to analysts at Scotiabank and elsewhere. China, where a quarter of the world’s automobiles are sold, is probably up 4 percent, Europe is expected to be down some 8 percent. Auto sales in the U.S.  on the other hand are seen to have risen some 14 percent for the year.  More precise data are expected  within hours or days, so let’s have a look forward.

In 2013, the party is seen to continue in the U.S. , fueled by give-away interest rates and a re-awakening housing market. Edmunds and other analysts predict U.S. sales of 15 million units. This should put smiles on the faces of the leaders of the auto industry.  But does it really? Let’s have a look.

  • Hyundai and its Kia affiliate target a modest rise of four percent in global sales in 2013 after an 8 percent rise in 2012, Reuters says. That would be the slowest sales pace ion 10 years for the Korean maker.
  • Toyota, the world’s largest automaker of 2012 with global production of nearly (but not quite) 10 million, expects global sales to be up only 2 percent in 2013.
  • Volkswagen’s Winterkorn expects 2013 to be “a tough year, for the automotive market as a whole, and for Volkswagen.”
  • In general, automakers expect the global market to rise by 5 percent. Renault & Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn is more cautious and expects between 3 and 4 percent more.

So does this mean that American finally has it better than the rest of the world? Not really Let’s face it, if the market grows from 14.5 million in 2012 to the 15 million expected for 2013, then that’s a less than exhilarating growth of 3.4 percent. And that’s good.  After a rebound in the first years of recovery, you want modest growth.  If sales ever reach 17 million, then its will be time to sell the house, and rent. Or even better. emigrate.

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Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: World Roundup November 2012: When Hyundai Cracked Brazil Wed, 26 Dec 2012 16:26:15 +0000

Hoping that you are all having a very Happy Holiday Season, my present to you guys today is the 9th installment of our much anticipated monthly rendezvous: the World Roundup.

If last month the focus was on China, Austria and Japan, in November all spotlights are on Brazil…

You can check out previous World Roundups here for March 2012  (“Has the Hybrid era started for good?”)April 2012 (“Big change coming from India”)May 2012 (“GM and Toyota Etios make headlines”)June 2012 (“Hyundai Santa Fe and Ford Focus shine”)July 2012 (“Geely CK writes history in Ukraine“), August 2012 (“The Subaru XV topples a legend in Switzerland”)September 2012 (“Ford Focus strong in China”) and October 2012 (“One Japanese in the Chinese Top 50″).

Had enough of the world and you just want to know which cars sell best in your own backyard? Easy. You can visit 171 countries and territories in my blog in the comfort of your own lounge. Just like that.

Back to our Roundup…

…And I was saying all spotlights are on Brazil this month.

Following the same trajectory as in Russia and India where it now regularly places a locally-produced model on the podium, Hyundai recently launched the HB (for Hyundai Brazil) range with the HB20 hatchback aimed directly at the VW Gol and Fiat Palio, the HB20X crossover just unveiled at the Sao Paolo Motor Show and a HB20 sedan due to launch in Q1 2013. All HB models will be produced at Hyundai’s new plant in Piracicaba in the Sao Paulo state. With its new plant, Hyundai aims at going from #9 and 2.6% share in 2012 to #4 with 10% of the Brazilian market as early as by the end of 2013, passing Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Renault and Ford in the process!

The Hyundai HB20 is produced in Hyundai’s new Piracicaba plant in Brazil

What seemed like wishful thinking only a few weeks back is now turning into reality. For its first full month of sales, the Hyundai HB20 breaks into the monthly Top 10 for the first time for a Hyundai in Brazil at #9 with 8,077 sales. Hyundai has received 50,000 orders for the model and believe it will sell 26,000 by end-2012, leaving a waiting list of 24,000 into the new year. The HB20 single-handedly pushed Hyundai up to #6 carmaker in Brazil in November at 4.7% share… While we are at it, the other big event in November in Brazil is the Chevrolet Onix already up to #11 with 7,409 sales. If you are a regular reader of my blog BestSellingCarsBlog you will already know that the Onix is up to #6 in at mid-December

Fiat 500L

The 2nd big event on the world car sales scene in November is the Fiat 500L breaking into the Top 10 in its native Italy at #9 with 2,115 sales and 2% share only a couple of months after launch. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves (yet), but it could be a case of the ‘right car at the right time’ for the Italian car manufacturer. Fiat’s previous incursion into the mini MPV segment, the Fiat Idea, never ranked better than #11 at home in June 2005, a position the 500L has already beaten. Fiat announced the 500L will go on sale in over 100 countries worldwide, pretty much everywhere the 500 is on sale right now including the USA and Brazil which could become its biggest market in the world if produced locally…

The Honda CR-V is the best-selling Japanese model in China this month

We can’t really go too far in our World Roundup without stopping in China, where events are 3-fold this month:

1. The Japanese manufacturers see their decline ease compared to September and October, with Toyota at -25%, Honda at -29% and Mazda at -30%. Japanese models are quietly back up the ranking with 6 of them in the Top 40 vs. just one last month: the Honda CR-V (#24), Nissan Sylphy (#29), Toyota Camry (#31), Corolla EX (#35), Corolla (#37) and Nissan Teana (#39).

BYD F3 Surui

2. Chinese brands are doing better at home, grabbing 35.1% of the overall market, their highest penetration rate in 20 years! For the first time since last May, the Chery QQ is the best-selling local thanks to the new model at #14 with 16,670 sales, its highest ranking since April 2011 and its strongest monthly volume since… January 2010!  Expect the trend to continue with the new gen BYD F3 gearing up (it cracked the 10,000 monthly units mark this month), and low-cost models like the Venucia R50/D50 (up a massive 67 ranks to #46) getting more and more successful…

38,362 Ford Focus found a buyer in China in November

3. Exceptional, outstanding, out-of-this-world, hard to appreciate the performance of the Ford Focus in China at its correct measure: it is the #1 passenger car for the 4th month in a row and the 5th time in the last 6 months, smashing its volume record again at 38,362 sales, which could even be the highest monthly volume ever recorded for a Passenger Car in China.(Note the Focus also managed to take the lead in the UK for only the 4th time in the last 3 years after May 2010Jan 2011 and Feb 2012). While we’re at it, let’s notice the VW Lavida also lodging a record month at 31,397 units.

VW Up!

Third big event and it’s a brand one, Volkswagen continues to kick arse and just doesn’t show any sign of slowing down even in a fragilized European market. The brand monopolises the podium in Norway (Golf-Passat-Tiguan) for potentially the first time ever there, also in Germany (Golf-Passat-Polo) for the 2nd month in a row and the 5th time in 2012 so far, and in Austria (Golf-Polo-Tiguan) for the 5th time in the last 6 months. Helped by the arrival of the 7th generation, the VW Golf reclaims its traditional leadership in SwitzerlandAustria and Macedonia this month.

VW Golf 7

The VW new Jetta beats its volume and share record in Mexico at #4 with 3,959 sales and 4.3% while the VW Polo lodges a brilliant 5th spot in France, only the 4th time it ranks within the Top 5 there. Note the Polo is the only foreign model to have ever broken into the French monthly Top 5!

The VW Up! is at a solid #16 in Germany and up to #6 in Greece and continues to own Denmark. In fact, the Bratislava sisters (Up-Citigo-Mii) success in Denmark is one of a kind… The Up! is in pole position there for the 5th time in the last 6 months and delivers its best score so far: 1,640 sales for a huge, world-best 10% market share! It is followed by the Skoda Citigo, equally impressive at a world-best #2 (vs. #11 at home in Czech Republic) with 1,154 units and 7.1% share. To give a bit of perspective, note that with the Toyota Aygo, the Up! and the Citigo are the only models to have sold upwards of 1,000 units in a single month in Denmark over the last 3 years – and the Up! has done it 6 consecutive times…

Seat Mii

The third Bratislava sibling, the Seat Mii, is down 6 spots to a still world-leading #17 but is victim of its success, with production currently unable to follow demand, a backlog of 3,600 unfilled orders and a 3 month-waiting list that has prompted consumers to buy one of its other two twins.  All-in-all the Bratislava sisters add up to an amazing 3,057 sales and 18.7% in Denmark this month!

Subaru Forester (US model)

In Japan, while the Toyota Aqua #1 for the 2nd month in a row, the new generation Subaru Forester enables the nameplate to break a 15 year-old ranking record in Japan at #15 with 3,113 units, beating the #19 it reached in April 1997 … It is however not the Forester’s strongest volume ever, that record remains 6,214 in March 2000, but perhaps not for too long: 8,000 orders have been received for the model so far in Japan, which is 4 times Subaru’s expectations…

Ford F-Series

In Canada, after only 11 months the Ford F-Series has managed to beat the annual sales record for any vehicle in the country it set back in 2010 at 97,913 units. With 99,331 sales at end November, Ford’s best-selling pick-up truck would have by now already passed the 100,000 annual sales mark to become the first ever vehicle to do so in the history of automobile in Canada! A historical milestone indeed, even more remarkable in post-economic crisis times when pick-up trucks are not the obvious choice anymore. For comparison, we have to go back 8 years to 2004 to find the F-Series record year in the USA

Renault Clio IV

The Renault Clio IV snaps up the pole position in France, passing its archenemy the Peugeot 208 as early as for its first ‘true’ month of sales with 7,152 units and 4.9%. The 4th generation pushes the Clio nameplate up 19 spots to #2 in Croatia, up 22 to #28 and #1 ‘true’ foreigner in Germany and enables it to hold the pole position for the 9th time so far this year in Slovenia. As a result, the Clio climbs back onto the European podium at #3 with 22,133 sales for the first time since February 2011.

Renault Duster

The Renault Duster is up a further two spots in India to a record #13 at 5,251 units – single-handedly taking Renault from #12 to #7 brand in the country, passing Skoda, Nissan, Honda, Volkswagen and Ford in the process, it is up to #13 in Mexico and #7 in Russia, beating its volume and market share records there to 6,755 sales and 2.8%.

The usual suspect in our monthly roundups, the Nissan Qashqai is not tired of surprising the car world and 3 years into its facelift it ranks #1 in Spain for the 5th time ever and the 4th time in 2012, #1 in Finland for the 5th month running and equals its highest market share ever in Italy at 2.2% and #8, adding up to a shiny 9th spot in Europe as a whole.

Just as the new generation is spreading across Europe, the Dacia/Renault Logan lodges particularly impressive performances in Ukraine where it takes the lead for the first time so far in 2012, in Bulgaria where the soon-to-be-discontinued MCV version takes off to 6% share and by far in pole position and in Iran where it is sold as the Renault Tondar 90, reaching a record 2nd place thanks to 8,369 units produced.

Renault Megane

There is now an exclusive Top 338 all-models ranking for Belgium for the first time ever on BestSellingCarsBlog, and it shows the VW Golf in the lead followed by the Renault Megane and Scenic. Boosted by subsidised pricing for low-emission vehicles, the Renault Megane hits a record 10% share in the Netherlands and is now #1 year-to-date there. The Maruti Alto has returned to high figures in India with 23,550 sales this month, including the new Alto 800 which has apparently been very well received, with the Maruti Ertiga impressive again at #9In Poland, the Opel Astra stops 44 consecutive month of Skoda Octavia domination and in Australia, the Toyota Camry at #3 is the best-selling locally produced model above the Holden Commodore for the 2nd month in a row and only the third time ever after January 1995 and October 2012

Toyota Avanza in Ubud, Bali Indonesia

The Toyota Avanza delivers an all-time monthly volume record in Indonesia at a huge 17,860 sales, while the  Renault Fluence #1 in Turkey for only the second time ever after January 2012 (October figures), the Chevrolet Colorado shoots up to #11 in Saudi Arabia for its first full month of sales and the new generation Hyundai Santa Fe is starting to make waves: up to #2 in Qatar and #5 in New Zealand. The new gen Toyota Corolla pushes the nameplate to #1 in Australia and New Zealand and the Toyota Prado delivers record showings in Kuwait and Bahrain whereas the Opel Ampera breaks into the Top 30 of any country in the world for the first time this month at #29 in the Netherlands.

Nissan Sentra

Now it’s time for an update on how the most recent model launches are behaving worldwide:

The new generation Nissan Sentra up to #5 in Mexico, the nameplate’s highest ranking in almost 2 years, and up 39 spots on October to #8 in Puerto Rico

For its first full month of sales, the Honda N-One is up to #5 Kei car in Japan with no less than 9,674 sales

The Kia K3 down to #7 in South Korea but up 33 spots to #30 in China with 10,313 sales for its 2nd month in market…

The Volvo V40 stays very solid at #6 in the Netherlands#7 in Sweden#14 in Belgium and #10 in Norway

The Skoda Rapid is up to #14 in Ireland but down 8 spots to #20 in its native Czech Republic

Dacia Lodgy

The Dacia Lodgy has slowed down in France but is up to #17 in Austria and #24 in Romania

The Ford B-Max, at the same time its production was cut in its Romanian plant, is up to #19 in Czech Republic with 148 units and 1%, #26 in Italy#32 in Romania#40 in France#58 in the Netherlands and #59 in Germany

The Seat Toledo lands directly at #20 for its first month in market in Ireland but is down a worrying 42 spots to #84 in its native Spain

Citroen C4 Aircross

The Citroen C4 Aircross is up to a world-best #30 in Norway

The Citroen C-Elysee launches directly at #36 in Bulgaria and #85 in Spain where it is produced while its twin the Peugeot 301 arrives at #50 in Slovenia#51 in Bulgaria#67 in Greece#70 in Czech Republic and #159 in Poland

The Opel Mokka breaks into the Top 50 of two countries around the globe: it is #46 in Slovenia and #47 in Austria

Fiat Viaggio

The Fiat Viaggio ranks #105 in China, consistent with my latest Chinese Viaggio sales update, GAC official numbers (thanks Jeff!) say 4,075 units sold in November, bringing its year-to-date total to 7,193 (#203)…

Finally the Opel Adam lands at #193 with 101 units sold in Germany

In the US, Subaru is up a massive 60% and achieves 300,000 annual US sales for the first time in its history, BMW is up 45% to deliver its best-ever month in the US at 31,213 units, Honda up 39% hitting its best November sales ever, Volkswagen up 29% and lodging its best November since 1973, Audi up 24% and already beating its annual sales record after 11 months, Mazda up 18% and achieving its best November since 1994 and Kia sold its 500,000th model in the US so far in 2012, a first for the brand.

The best performer of the month is by far the Honda Civic, up 75% year-on-year to #3 at 30,075 sales, a new November record beating the one set in 1990. It is the first time the Honda Civic ranks on the US podium since August 2009, and potentially the 2nd time it ever leads the Passenger Cars ranking after May 2008 when it ranked #1 overall. The Ford C-Max improves again, up 27 spots to #68 whereas the Dodge Dart seems to have hit a wall already, down 18% and 16 ranks on October to #75.

You can check out the previous World Roundups here:

World October 2012 Roundup: China, Japan and Austria in focus

World September 2012 Roundup: Ford Focus shines in China

World August 2012 Roundup: Subaru XV topples almighty Golf in Switzerland

World July 2012 Roundup: Geely CK writes history in Ukraine

World June 2012 Roundup: Hyundai Santa Fe and Ford Focus shine

World May 2012 Roundup: GM and Toyota Etios make headlines

World April 2012 Roundup: Maruti Swift and Mazda CX-5 impress

World March 2012 Roundup: Toyota Prius breaks a leg

That’s all for this month! Hope you enjoyed…

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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After The Hyundai EPA Scandal, The Stench Of Insider Trading Fri, 21 Dec 2012 14:16:11 +0000

Possibly a bigger scandal is following Hyundai’s MPG brouhaha: There is a stench of insider trading. “This smells pretty bad,” Robert Boxwell, director of consulting firm Opera Advisors in Kuala Lumpur who has studied insider dealing patterns, tells Reuters.

On November 2, 2012, it was announced that Hyundai and Kia had overstated the fuel economy ratings on many of its cars. Not surprisingly, the Hyundai share did a nosedive on the news. However, the stock had already cratered before the announcement. The stock fell 4 percent on November 1 with about 2.2 million shares changing hands, the highest trading volume of the year at that point.

Some say, it is par for the course at Asian bourses. “The idea that insider trading is wrong rather than smart is only being ingrained in the current generation of Asian players, not the older generation who are often still in the driving seat,” said Peter Douglas, founder of GFIA, a hedge fund consultancy in Singapore, told Reuters.

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Detroit Three Dimed Out Hyundai/Kia Over MPG: Automotive News Mon, 17 Dec 2012 17:43:59 +0000

Could one of the Detroit auto makers blown the whistle on Hyundai and Kia’s mileage figures? Automotive News seems to think so.

According to AN, Margo Oge, a retired EPA official, said it was

 a “credible” senior vice president from a domestic automaker called her in 2010 to accuse the Korean brands of “cheating” to get inflated mpg numbers. Based on the tip, Oge launched an audit that led Hyundai and Kia to admit they made bogus fuel-economy claims.

GM and Chrysler issued unequivocal denials over whether they were the guilty party. Ford’s answer didn’t pass AN‘s smell test. Ford stated that

“We cannot comment on any specific discussions, but Ford routinely speaks with policymakers about a wide variety of issues affecting our industry,” a company spokesman wrote in an e-mail. “We have been — and remain — an advocate of driving real fuel economy gains because it is in the best interest of our customers.”

Two issues here

1) We put forward a rather veiled suggestion that this whole thing was somewhat fishy in light of the circumstances surrounding previous questions about the Ford Fusion Hybrid’s fuel economy claims. Backroom chats with other industry types yileded more explicit suggestions that despite Hyundai/Kia’s wrongdoing, this whole thing was a witch hunt.

2) If Ford really was behind this, it’s hardly an opportune time for them to be pontificating about fuel economy claims.

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Hyundai Fuel Fiasco: Whose Shoe Will Drop Next? Fri, 30 Nov 2012 05:25:36 +0000

“Who’s next?” This is the number one topic at the Los Angeles auto show. After Hyundai had to restate its MPG numbers and pay compensation to customers, executives and analysts are convinced that more automakers may have to do the same, reports the well-connected Reuters reporter Bernie Woodall from the back-rooms and cocktail parties in LA.

“I think we might see more of this,” said Jake Fisher, the head of automotive testing at Consumer Reports. “There are other vehicles that don’t really stack up to the EPA estimates.”

Auto executives at Nissan, GM , Toyota, Honda, Mazda, and Chrysler, told Woodall they are confident that their mileage claims are true.

So what do you guess? Who’s next?

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Hyundai Veloster C3 Rolltop – The Korean Cabrio: 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show Thu, 29 Nov 2012 13:00:14 +0000

Part Fiat 500C and part GMC Envoy XUV, the Volster C3 rolltop concept has a rolling canvas roof (like the Fiat) designed to help make it easy to carry tall objects (like the XUV). The roof can roll two ways, away from the cargo area to carry tall objects, or away from the passengers to help get some sunshine on their heads. Underneath, it’s all Veloster Turbo mechanicals.

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