SEOUL – The Veloster sport coupe concept unveiled at the recent Seoul auto show and the Hellion cross/utility concept that bowed at last fall’s Los Angeles auto show are two modelsMotor Co. Ltd. may aim at Generation Y buyers in the U.S.
“There’s actually several (vehicles under consideration) right now, and we’re doing research on each of them,” Wayne Killen, director-product planning forMotor America, tells Ward's here.
The Hellion has been researched heavily in L.A. and the Veloster is being studied now, Killen says, but no decisions have been made on whether to produce either.
A “sporty box”-type of vehicle also is an option for the U.S. market, he says.
Hyundai owners, with a median age in the mid-40s, already are on the younger side of the scale in the U.S. But Killen says, the auto maker is prioritizing vehicles that will appeal to an even younger, hipper consumer.
“Right now we’re talking more about cars we can sell to the youth market. That’s the necessary first step,” he says. “Frankly, our overall demographic is good enough now where it’s not a huge departure to go down to the younger demographic. It’s a logical extension.”
However, he says a youth brand akin toMotor Sales U.S.A. Inc.’s Scion is not a priority for Hyundai in the U.S.
“I think right now our big challenge and focus is to develop a vehicle that appeals to Gen Y that would be a Hyundai-brand (model),” Killen says.
The Accent SE, a sporty 3-door version of Hyundai’s subcompact featuring a 6-speed manual transmission and unique paint, is doing the intended job of drawing in more enthusiast-oriented buyers, Killen says.
The potential youth-oriented models also would fulfill Hyundai’s desire for “halo cars,” those that have what it takes to land on the covers of automotive enthusiast magazines and draw buyers that otherwise might not have shopped the brand.
Killen says the upcoming rear-wheel-drive car, based on the Concept Genesis sedan unveiled at the recent New York auto show, is just one of the vehicles that could wear the “halo” label.
“I think Concept Genesis certainly qualifies as that, and there are some other products we are looking at too, down the road. So I think there’s room for more than one halo vehicle,” he says.
The upcoming i30 compact wagon, due next spring in the U.S., will not be a vehicle geared toward Generation Y buyers (roughly those born from 1978-2000), although it will compete in the same segment as the Mazda3 5-door andMatrix/Pontiac Vibe hatchback twins.
“I wouldn’t call (the i30) as specifically targeting Gen Y. The typical demographic for that vehicle is young-married or single,” Killen says.
The i30, developed especially for Europe, where it is sold in hatchback and wagon configurations, makes sense for Hyundai in the U.S., because the hatchback variant of the previous-generation Elantra represented 40% of the GT trim mix, he says.
However, that model didn’t prioritize handling, something that will be remedied with the i30, Killen says.
“We’re focusing on that even more with this new product so the suspension tuning, for example, is going to be a higher level than the Elantra.”
Killen says Hyundai will market the i30 as an Elantra, but it may refer to the model as a “touring” edition rather than a wagon.
Hyundai’s U.S. operation could pluck more models from the auto maker’s European lineup, if they are good products and fit the brand image in the U.S., Killen says.
“I would say where the best products are built, we would look at them,” he says.
“(The i30) was originally conceived and developed to support the European market, but obviously those kind of design characteristics work well with us, as well,” he adds, pointing out there is almost no shared sheet metal between the i30 and the current Elantra.