With mass car market in stress, Hyundai eyes luxury segment

Equus, HyundaiThe Equus is Hyundai’s most expensive model and in some markets does not use the Hyundai badge to reflect a more upscale image

The country's second-largest carmaker, Hyundai, is studying the growing luxury car market which is today the stronghold of German trio — Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The South Korean carmaker is considering a foray into the segment with its top-of-the-range models like the Equus and Genesis sedans, and the Veloster compact sports car, for which it could set up a separate sales network.

The strategy to enter the luxury market follows Hyundai's recent focus of building a more upmarket image for the brand and slowly moving up the chain towards premium vehicles, even as it maintains its hold on the mass market of compact cars. Recent launches in the premium space include the Elantra and Sonata sedans, while a new Santa Fe SUV is expected to follow next year.

"We are studying the luxury space right now, though there is nothing definite yet. Apart from Equus, there are more luxury models in the Hyundai range. However, we will need a different network to sell these cars. We are gauging customer acceptance of Hyundai's luxury car range and then we will take a decision," a Hyundai India official told FE. However, the official did not specify a timeline for launch, or if they will be assembled at Hyundai's plant near Chennai.

The Equus is Hyundai's most expensive model and in some markets does not use the Hyundai badging to reflect a more upscale image. It is currently sold only in select markets like South Korea, North America, China and the West Asia. Meanwhile, the Veloster sports compact targets the youth with its unconventional design.

"The luxury car market requires a very different end-to-end long-term strategy in terms of marketing and channel partners. One school of thought is that it will be tough to establish a new brand, but we have been heading towards the premium end progressively with new launches like the Verna, Elantra and Sonata," another company official said.

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