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Hyundai confirms 'MD' for Oz in 2011

words - Ken Gratton
Elantra replacement is scheduled for local launch next year -- but will it be named i35?
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It's time for a new innings of the Hyundai name game. The importer has just released fresh pics of its MD-coded small sedan and has also confirmed that the car is definitely coming to Australia with a direct-injection petrol engine -- but hasn't actually revealed its model name.

"At this stage, we're in the process of reviewing [naming] options with HMC," says Ben Hershman, Hyundai's Senior Manager Product Communications & PR. "In some markets, like Korea, it's called Avante."

So while the company is only too happy to talk about 'Fluidic sculpture' styling and 'Wind Craft' interior design, it hasn't settled on the car's model name for when it goes on sale here, alongside the i30 hatch and replacing the Elantra.

It's a repeat of the situation with the mid-size i45, which was referred to by its engineering code ('YF') until a matter of months prior to its local launch. The very fact that Hyundai settled on i45 as the name for the new mid-size car argues in favour of i-prefixed names to replace traditional model names from the company's past. We're betting the farm on 'i35' as the public name for the MD in Australia.

Other than the information in our report dating back to May, little is known about the new model and how it will shape up for the Australian market. The Wind Craft interior design is described in the company's press release as: "a dynamic and futuristic direction aimed directly at a youthful generation." Among other things, the new-look interior features a silver garnish running in a sweeping arc from the dash top to the centre console. The interior is further set off by glossy piano black finishes and metallic decorative trim pieces.

Hershman was not in a position to discuss matters such as pricing, trim levels, equipment or even the car's projected local launch date -- other than sometime next year -- but was prepared to discuss the significance of the MD's fluidic sculpture and the bearing it would have on the car's market position and the company's brand image.

He explained that the avant-garde design language will be the company's corporate style now and in the future; a default look for the entire product range. At best, it will provide a stepping stone for Hyundai's brand image to continue on its upward path. Whether that will translate to higher prices and stronger per-unit profit remains unclear. The recently-released i20 has hit the market with higher prices and more equipment, but was designed before the parameters for fluidic sculpture were established anyway. Hershman doesn't correlate fluidic sculpture with higher prices or a general move upmarket.

"The perfect example for me is i45's evolution over the previous codenamed-NF Sonata," explained Hershman. The new mid-size car has actually reached the local market with an entry-level model about $1500 more expensive than the base-model Sonata it replaced -- not a lot of difference for a new car that offers much more than its predecessor. That increase in price certainly doesn't appear to be predicated on the car's bold new styling alone.

Hershman believes that the styling is important as a component of a car's general market appeal and if you combine that with other components, such as quality, refinement and fuel efficiency -- to name a few -- the brand image for the whole company can improve, but it's like upgrading anything. Improving the brand image or raising the company's public profile can't be done piecemeal.

"The styling is a piece of the puzzle that's needed to help our brand grow..." explained Hershman. "I think i45 is a striking design and perhaps really differentiates that car from everything else in the mid-size segment. Whether or not MD in the flesh does that as well, we have to wait and see..."

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Powered By Motoring.com.au Published : Wednesday, 21 July 2010


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