By on July 18, 2017

2018 Hyundai Sonata - Image: HyundaiLaunched for the 2015 model year, the seventh Hyundai Sonata was not the avant-garde successor to the 2011-2014 Sonata for which many hoped. The new Sonata, while objectively better in virtually every way, was missing a key ingredient.

For 2018, Hyundai has thoroughly refreshed the seventh-generation Sonata, hoping that a far more aggressive front fascia will draw more eyes. Hyundai went much further than the superficial, however, by stiffening the Sonata’s structure, upgrading to an eight-speed automatic, and including more safety equipment as standard fit.

Yet while Toyota and Honda believe their new Camry and new Accord can ignite the midsize sedan segment in a bid to wage war against a crossover onslaught, Hyundai’s goals for the refreshed 2018 Sonata are far more modest. Much more modest. Más modesto.

Hyundai Motor America’s Sonata product manager told Wards Auto the goal with this refresh is to “maintain our share.”

Hyundai has not been doing so.

Undeniably, one reason Hyundai has lost so much market share in 2017 comes down to the automaker’s decision to finally place less reliance on fleet volume. In 2016, one-quarter of Hyundai’s U.S. sales were going to fleets. Hyundai has reigned in that fleet reliance in the first-half of 2017, allowing fleet sales to tumble 29 percent while benefiting from a 1 percent uptick in retail sales.

Hyundai’s totals have taken a hit as a result. In a market that’s off last year’s record pace by 2 percent, Hyundai sales are down 10 percent. Hyundai’s car volume is down 18 percent. And the Hyundai Sonata has seen its sales tumble 27 percent, a drop of more than 28,000 sales, year over year.

Hyundai’s share of America’s fading midsize category has thus decreased from 9.4 percent in 2016’s first six months to 8.4 percent during the first-half of 2017.

But if Hyundai can just hold off on losing market share to new cars such as the 2018 Toyota Camry and 2018 Honda Accord, the company will have done what it set out to do.2018 Hyundai Sonata interior - Image: HyundaiSonata sales fell to a six-year low of 199,416 units in the United States in 2016, the first sub-200,000-sale year since 2010. Hyundai is on track to fall below 150,000 U.S. Sonata sales in 2017 if the revamped 2018 model doesn’t spur demand.

At the Montgomery, Alabama assembly plant where the Sonata, Elantra, and Santa Fe Sport are all built, total Sonata/Elantra production was down 20 percent through the first five months of 2017, according to Automotive News. That decline of 33,000 units made it possible for Hyundai to build 28,049 Santa Fe Sports, which weren’t assembled in Montgomery at this time last year.

America’s midsize sedan sector, meanwhile, is increasingly controlled by the leading candidates, none of which are losing sales as fast as the segment as a whole. In the first-half of 2017, the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima improved their share of the segment to 53 percent from 49 percent one year ago. The next three best sellers — Fusion, Malibu, Sonata — dropped to 29 percent in 2017 from 34 percent in 2016.

[Images: Hyundai]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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9 Comments on “2018 Hyundai Sonata Will Not Kill the Crossover – Hyundai Keeps Its Hopes Humble...”


  • avatar
    kc1980

    Reminds me of a ford fusion…Certainly not anything fresh or exciting. The interior seems like a decent enough place to be though.

    The sonata caught everyones eye with daring styling a few generations back. They quickly made the successive generations a lot less exciting and easy to misplace in a parking lot

    I used to see them all over the place, now i don’t see any. I don’t see anything here that will change that. I wonder if this car made it in time for their plans to finally make their car’s handle well? The Nurburgring everything plan.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    I had a rental Sonana earlier this year, for a week. It was a mid or low trim with the base engine. The experience was sufficient but largely forgettable. Some of the interior details and execution were irritating.

    The interior design does look nice in pictures but after just 10-20k miles the low grade materials show their true colors.

  • avatar
    arach

    I think the Sonata is one of the best cars on the market.

    I loved it so much, I scrapped my Cadillac and bought one.

    After owning a BMW, Porsche, and Cadillac… I thought I’d want the Genesis. the Genesis G80 was a huge disappointment, but I found the sonata PERFECT.

    Perfect size, perfect motor with the best torque curve I’ve ever had (1400RPM Peak torque??) , best transmission I’ve ever had in ANY car, well designed, well laid out. I hate the lack of cool colors, but its a sedan.

    I think the real issue is the daggone price.

    The 2.0t Limited, which is what I got, stickered at over 35k.

    The 2018 dropped the loaded price to 33k, which is more palatable. I haven’t seen a mention of this in any press.

    I know its only 2k, but when you start seeing a “Sonata” at 36k, my goodness…

    Hyundai has long been the “value leader”. Then all of a sudden they cost the same or more than the hondas and toyotas of the world, and wonder why they are losing market share?

    If McDonalds raised their prices to $15 for a lunch, they’d lose market share too.

    I think Hyundai thought they had the brand recognition and respect of a Toyota. I don’t think they do…. and this comes from a Hyundai Lover.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      Okay, as a Hyundai lover you should realize that your 2017 Sonata, while priced similarly to the loaded 2017 Camry, had many more premium features that aren’t even available on a Camry. The Camry doesn’t come with a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, smart trunk, rear sunshades, or many other niceties. And its JBL soundsystem is the worst I’ve ever heard, even worse than the stock radio. So no, Hyundais are not more expensive than Toyotas. Further, if you bought a 2017 Sonata you should have easily gotten $6500 off sticker.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        The Sonata just reeks of cost cutting inside, and while the 2017 Camry is also an outdated and noncompetitive car the 2018 model year sees it make a huge leap in quality that the 2018 Sonata just doesn’t make.
        And there’s a reason why Hyundai has had to throw $8000+ in incentives on existing Sonatas to make them sell, it’s insane.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      “…one of the best cars on the market.”

      Wouldn’t go that far.

      The Sonata, prior to the MCE, was middling within its segment (albeit, these days, after the demise of the 200, not really going to go wrong with any of them).

      Biggest flaw was its steering feel/feedback (which seems a good bit improved based on the reviews of the refreshed model) and it’s interior materials could have been better at certain touch points.

      The sheetmetal also went too far the other, resulting in a pretty staid/bland look.

      The refreshed Sonata seems to have addressed most of the bigger issues, but it’s going to be a tough road to compete with the new Accord and Camry, not to mention Nissan’s discounting of the Altima.

      Also, the G80 is an all-around better vehicle than the Sonata, esp. the G80 Sport.

      And has noted, what seems like “high prices” has to do with the level of kit.

      Price out a similarly equipped Accord or Camry.

      Heck, a loaded Odyssey approaches $50k.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    “Hyundai has reigned in that fleet reliance….”

    That should be “reined.”

    Sorry. Grammar nazi, I admit.

    I have to go with the poster who stated that the low-rentedness of the materials was apparent. I’ve heard for years that material quality isn’t up to Toyonda levels, and if you try to use that warranty, you stand a chance of pushback from the dealer.

    (And speaking of the dealer, the dealer group selling HyundKias locally has all the franchises within a couple hours’ drive, and I generally feel as though I need a shower after I’ve wandered into their showrooms! So I suspect that warranty work would be a fight.)

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The quality of materials in the prior gen Camry was worse, esp. prior to the refresh.

      Hyundai, did, however, skimp too much on padding on the door and the arm rest.

      Kia does a better job with their interiors (and that’s not including the top SX-L trim), but that’s in part to the fact that Kia has to sell their models in Europe (Hyundai has a separate car line-up for Europe; which is why the Elantra GT (aka the i30) has a nicer interior than the Elantra sedan.

  • avatar
    geo

    Front ends are becoming weirder and weirder. This one looks agape in horror.

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