DETROIT – In its second iteration,Motor America’s smallest cross/utility vehicle will be repositioned from a rugged, outdoor-oriented model to one that is more of an “urban cruiser,” a top official says.
“We’re moving Tucson from its current positioning, which has a little bit of toughness in design,” HMA CEO John Krafcik says in a recent interview here. “The new Tucson is going in a much more urban direction. It’s much more aligned with the overallbrand.”
Hyundai also is nixing the V-6 option available on the current Tucson in favor of a 4-cyl.-only strategy, employing a 2.4L from its Theta engine family to power the CUV.
The new, second-generation Tucson goes on sale this fall in the U.S.
The Tucson debuted here in late 2004, slotting below Hyundai’s larger Santa Fe CUV.
While sales of the Tucson started out strong, initially cannibalizing Santa Fe demand, they have trailed off in recent years, as the entry-CUV segment became one of the fastest-growing and most competitive in the U.S. new-vehicle market.
Ward’s data show Tucson sales in 2005, the vehicle’s first full year, stood at 61,048 units. Last year, sales of 19,027 represented a 54.1% decline from 2007’s 41,476.
In the last four years, the entry CUV group has ballooned with new entries, such asNorth America Inc.’s Rogue and LLC’s Dodge Journey and Jeep Compass and Patriot.
In the same period, redesigned models such asMotor Sales U.S.A. Inc.’s RAV4 and American Motor Co. Inc.’s CR-V, both redone in 2006, have remained top-sellers. The CR-V surpassed the Escape to claim the No.1 sales slot among CUVs.
In addition to the Tucson and Santa Fe, Hyundai offers the Veracruz large CUV and soon will add a fourth model to its U.S. CUV lineup.
Krafcik is mum on details of the new model, saying it won’t bear too close a resemblance to the Portico people-mover concept Hyundai displayed at the 2005 Chicago auto show.
“All we want to say for now is we’ve got a production crossover that’s coming. I hate to compare it to (the Portico), because the design language is so very different now, and we’ve matured in so many different ways.”
Krafcik says Hyundai will need to “carve out its own unique place in the market and within our showroom” with the new CUV, which will come as part of a new-product launch cycle, dubbed 24/7 version 2.0, that stretches through 2011.
Hyundai is in the process of launching the first model in that cycle, with the Elantra Touring wagon now arriving in U.S. showrooms.
The Elantra Touring is based on the i30 wagon Hyundai sells overseas. Not much about the vehicle’s styling has been changed, but Hyundai did tweak the suspension to be consistent with the more athletic and sporty Elantra SE model, Krafcik says.
Although it once contemplated bringing the i30 hatchback to the U.S. as well, he says Hyundai believes the wagon “gets us 95% of the design excitement” of the i30 hatch.
Other models planned as part of 24/7 version 2.0 include the Genesis coupe, on sale this spring; a next-generation Sonata, debuting early next year and likely to bow at November’s Los Angeles auto show; a next-generation Accent B-car; and an all-new B-segment coupe based on Hyundai’s Veloster concept.
The U.S. Accent will be similar to the Accent Hyundai sells in China.
“I think there are a lot of synergies between the U.S. and the Chinese market,” Krafcik says. “I think it gives us a tremendous cost advantage. And I think when you see the product you’ll say, ‘Yeah, that’s better for the U.S. than (Hyundai’s European) i20 would have been.’”
He emphasizes the Accent sold in the U.S. will not be imported from China, however. Currently, U.S.-market Accents are supplied from Korea.