Now that the average price has passed $US10,000 a car in North America, Hyundai Motor has shed its image as a maker of cut-price vehicles, an export executive said this week.

"The price hit the $US10,000 level for the first time in the first quarter of this year,'' Lee Hyung-keun, Hyundai Motor's senior director in charge of export marketing, told the Korea Times.

"Encouraged by the rise in price, Hyundai Motor has already shed its image as a manufacturer of low-priced cars in [North America],'' Lee said during a seminar on Hyundai Motor's business performance and future strategy.

He added that the average price in the United States or Canada, which stood at $US8,684 per car in 1997, fell to $US7,228 and $US7,898 in 1998 and 1999. But it surged to $US9,343 last year thanks to the introduction of the pricier Santa Fe SUV and (Grandeur) XG30.

The Korea Times said that Hyundai Motor sold 130,000 cars in the U.S. between January and May, grabbing a meagre four percent of the entire passenger car market, though that was up 33 percent from a year earlier.


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This year, Hyundai expects to sell 264,500 cars, including 55,500 of its new Santa Fe SUVs, to take three percent of the passenger car market.

`"Hyundai Motor is also expected to take 0.6 percent of the light truck market, and 1.8 percent of the total U.S. vehicle market,'' Lee told the newspaper.

In order to maintain the sales increase, Hyundai will focus on high value-added sport utility vehicles while offering reasonable prices by reducing marketing rebate costs, for instance, he said.

The company will also provide an extended guarantee period to enhance the Hyundai brand's value, he said.

The Korea Times said that Michael De Vere, senior director of J. D. Power & Associates, the automotive assessment firm, said Hyundai's Santa Fe and Grandeur XG have outperformed competing Japanese models made by Toyota and Honda, for instance, in terms of the appeal index, a barometer of the commercial value of cars.

"Hyundai has also been one of leaders along with Toyota, Honda and BMW in terms of dealer and degree of consumer satisfaction,'' he said during the seminar held at the Grand Intercontinental Hotel in southern Seoul.

He added that Hyundai needed to further improve its quality, service and brand image in order to become one of the world's top five makers.

Han Choong-min, a professor at Hanyang University, said: "Hyundai Motor needs to continue efforts to develop new popular models while improving its managerial and marketing systems in a bid to raise its brand image," the Korea Times reported.

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