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Carmakers bet big on large sedans to restore profits

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Published : 2014-09-04 20:39
Updated : 2014-09-04 21:22

Amid a continuing craze for sport utility vehicles among drivers here, some Korean carmakers are expected to bet on large-sedan models in the second half of the year.

Industry experts say local companies will be turning their attention to more profitable models amid rising uncertainties due to volatile foreign currencies. Currently, foreign brands dominate the nation’s large-sedan market.

On Wednesday, Renault Samsung Motors, the Korean unit of the France-based Renault Group, launched the new SM7 Nova, a partially revised version of its flagship large sedan.

The SM7 Nova, the first new SM7 model in three years, follows the new family look of Renault Group vehicles, including the so-called “eye of the typhoon” logo on the front grille.
Renault Samsung Motors CEO Francois Provost (right) and sales chief and senior vice president Park Dong-hoon pose at a launch event for the SM7 Nova in Busan on Wednesday. (Renault Samsung Motors)

It is also the first Korea-made car to adopt a smartphone mirroring system, which allows drivers to use smartphone applications through the car’s navigation system.

“We aim to sell 800 vehicles per month,” said Park Dong-hoon, senior vice president and sales chief of Renault Samsung, at the car’s launch event in Busan on Wednesday.

“This new car will offer more options for customers amid the dominance of Hyundai and Kia cars in the market.”

Hyundai Motor, the nation’s largest carmaker, is also ramping up efforts to expand its sedan lineup, with an all-new model, the Aslan, waiting to make its debut in the coming months.

The Aslan, its name coming from the Turkish word for lion, will be strategically placed between the carmaker’s top-selling Grandeur and Genesis sedans. It shares the same platform with the Grandeur but has a greater engine capacity.

Its concept originated from the carmaker’s own survey findings that Grandeur drivers would prefer to purchase a foreign-brand sedan for their next car, rather than one of Hyundai’s higher-end models like the Genesis or Equus.

“The new car is a strategic model that will compete head-on with the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class,” said Kim Sang-dae, Hyundai’s marketing director. “As the large-sedan market is soaring, we plan to offer a more segmented lineup so that customers stay with us.”

Its affiliate Kia Motors also plans to launch a new version of its flagship luxury sedan, the K9, in November. Despite positive reviews of the car among experts, the K9 has suffered sluggish sales.

In the first seven months of this year, the K9 sold some 3,000 units, while sales of its key competitor, the Hyundai Genesis, reached more than 23,000 vehicles during the same period.

Kia aims to add more luxurious features to the new version of the K9 in a bid to elevate its premium image.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)

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