2018 Hyundai Sonata Will Not Kill the Crossover - Hyundai Keeps Its Hopes Humble

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
2018 hyundai sonata will not kill the crossover hyundai keeps its hopes humble

Launched 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.

Sonata 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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  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Jul 18, 2017

    "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.)

    • Bd2 Bd2 on Jul 18, 2017

      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.

  • Geo Geo on Jul 19, 2017

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

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.