More stories related to New York Auto Show NEW YORK – With performances from the hit Broadway musical “Movin Out” as the backdrop, Hyundai Motor America unveils its new flagship sedan replacement, dubbed the Azera, here near the site of the New York auto show.

“We love Azera. It has this really cool feeling,” says John Krafcik, vice president-product and strategic planning, HMA, of the new moniker, which he says Hyundai made up.

“I like the from A-Z aspect (of Azera); it’s a new ‘era’ for Hyundai. Azera kind of connotes azure, which is the French word for blue. It’s our corporate color and it’s optimistic and forward-looking and all that stuff. And it tested really well.”

He says XG 350 was retired because when the XG300 came out as an ’01 model, Hyundai had been considering alphanumeric monikers. “Let’s stick with words and names that can develop a feeling and sense of their own that add to Hyundai,” says Krafcik.

Azera replaces XG350.

The ’06 model will boast standard safety features quickly becoming part of the brand trademark, including front dual-active headrests, electronic stability control and eight airbags, making it a standout in its class, says Hyundai.

“We’ve found that customers increasingly expect all that stuff to come free, included in the purchase price. They’d rather not have to pay extra,” says Krafcik.

The third of the seven new Hyundai models debuting in 24 months, the Azera boasts a 3.8L V-6 engine that produces an estimated 265 hp and 257 lb. ft. (348 Nm) of torque – more than the Ford Five Hundred and Buick LaCrosse.

Hyundai expects ultra-low emission status, but doesn’t have fuel economy figures yet.

“What’s really exciting for us is now having extraordinary powertrains to go with really good basic vehicle platforms,” says Krafcik. “This was the missing piece for us.”

A 5-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control is standard. The Azera rides on a 4-wheel independent suspension featuring a multi-link setup in the rear and double wishbones up front. The Azera’s wheelbase is 1.1 ins. (2.8 cm) longer than the ’05 XG 350.

XM Satellite Radio will be standard on the Azera, as well as all new Hyundai models, beginning on four ’07 models in 2006.

“A lot of our customers told us (in-vehicle entertainment) was very, very important,” HMA President and CEO Bob Cosmai says, of putting XM standard across Hyundai’s U.S. lineup.

Krafcik expects XM to add “very little, perhaps nothing” to the price of a vehicle. He says three months of free service will be provided, as well.

Cosmai says the vehicle boasts more interior volume than the Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon, as well as luxury models Mercedes S-Class and BMW 760i.

Krafcik says Hyundai benchmarked “everything,” including Japanese luxury models from Lexus, Infiniti and Acura, as well as Mercedes-Benz and BMW, in creating the Azera.

Hyundai also benchmarked the new Toyota Avalon, but not the Ford Five Hundred. “Ford Five Hundred wasn’t on the radar screen (when Azera was developed),” says Krafcik, a former Ford Motor Co. executive. “But now that this has come out and we’ve seen the Five Hundred, we think it’s an interesting counterpoint to that car from many, many ways, (including from) a content standpoint.”

Krafcik says the Azera is not the much-talked-about Hyundai luxury model rumored to be on the horizon.

“This is certainly a premium car, but we may have something even better and even more luxurious and premium than this one,” he says of an upcoming concept. Hyundai has not yet determined where or when it will show the vehicle, says Krafcik.

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com