The South Korean automaker hoped the recently refreshed Sonata sedan would be an asset in reversing dwindling US sales, a market that follows closely in importance the world’s largest auto outlet – China.
But, according to industry insiders the new model has failed to impress both critics – who describe it as a pale substitute to the popular outgoing model – and consumers. The new Sonata has been tepidly received by Hyundai’s second-largest auto market, another bad news in the latest string of negative events that also include an intensifying competition and eroding earnings because of a stronger Korean currency.
Analysts and industry observers say the new Sonata – which landed in the US back in June – has failed to impress because of bland design and the loss of the usual South Korean value-for-money incentive: the crowded segment includes rivals such as Nissan’s Altima and Honda’s Accord who can beat the Sonata either with better pricing or more attractive designs.
According to Lee Sang-hyun, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities, sales of the model in the first four months after the US launch have totaled 41,994 units, a 13% decline from the figures posted by its predecessor. Also, while the company deliberately made the new Sonata more conservative to appeal to traditionalist customers back home, sales in South Korea have also slumped to 6,861 cars in September – after in April deliveries stood at 11,904 vehicles.