More stories related to 2005 NAIAS DETROIT – Hyundai Motor America’s new ’06 Sonata will begin “well below $20,000” and include a raft of standard safety equipment, the auto maker announces here at the North American International Auto Show.

The Sonata, completely redesigned to suit North American tastes and the first of Hyundai’s products to be built in the U.S., will feature standard electronic stability control, traction control, active front headrests, six standard airbags and antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution when it goes on sale in the spring.

The Sonata will be the first midsize sedan to offer ESC standard and Hyundai says the Sonata is its best effort yet to go after Accord, Camry and Altima buyers.

New Sonata will begin under $20k.

“We have to continue to focus on quality because (domestic and import) everybody’s got a great product,” says Bob Cosmai, HMA president and CEO. “Safety should be a standard feature. It should not be an optional feature.”

Standard comfort features on the ’06 Sonata include remote keyless entry with alarm, remote adjustable heated side view mirrors and AM/FM/CD with MP3 stereo system with six speakers.

With all of the standard safety equipment, Hyundai says it is projecting a 5-star safety rating from the U.S. government in both frontal and side impact crash tests.

The Sonata, to be built at Hyundai’s new $1.1 billion, 300,000-unit capacity manufacturing plant in Montgomery, AL, will boast two new engines: a 3.3L V-6 making 237 hp and a 2.4L 4-cyl. churning out 162 hp.

Both engines will meet Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV) standards in the U.S., says John Krafcik, vice president-product planning and strategic planning, who adds the Hyundai V-6 boasted better acceleration time than the Camry and Accord V-6s.

Although midsize, the new Sonata is actually classified as a large car by the U.S. government due to its roomy interior, says Krafcik.

Also shown here was a sneak peak at the Montgomery plant, Hyundai’s first U.S. facility, set to begin production in March of the Sonata and, in nine months, of the second-generation Santa Fe cross/utility.

The plant features a new paint process that rotates each vehicle 360 degrees in 12 different phosphate and E-coat process baths, among other features.

Meanwhile, Cosmai says Hyundai has no firm plans yet to enter the luxury vehicle segment in the U.S. as it first needs to fill the pipeline with mass-market products.

“The luxury brand right now is not going to be immediate because we’re still entering new segments as a player as far as a mass-marketed vehicle,” says Cosmai. “But our major focal point for us is quality.”

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com