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JAPAN: Hyundai to widen range, brands

By just-auto.com editorial team | 9 March 2001

Hyundai may soon sell a one-litre 'world' car and launch the Kia brand in Japan next year, Bloomberg News reported.

Hyundai currently sells its Santa FE SUV, Elantra compact and Trajet minivan in Japan but will add two more models in April, and more in 2002, including the one-litre model, Hyundai Motor Japan president Myung Shik Synn told Bloomberg in an interview.

The Kia subsidiary may provide some of the extra models, he added.

Hyundai Motor exported 134,000 cars in January and February but just 52 were sold in Japan. That leaves a long way to go to the 2001 target of about 5,000.

Bloomberg News said that Hyundai's Japanese strategy includes appealing to less conservative young buyers with limited cash by selling cars for around 15 percent less than rival Japanese models.

It also said that Hyundai plans to increase the number of dealerships from seven to 20 by June and to double the Japanese network again by December to achieve its 2001 sales target.

"We won't hurry to expand sales," Synn told Bloomberg. "At this stage, we'll give more importance to building up our product image in one of the most competitive markets."

Bloomberg added that there is no plan to share the Japanese dealer network with Mitsubishi, with whom Hyundai has had a technical co-operation agreement for many years. Mitsubishi has a 2.5 percent slice of the Korean company which began life in the 1960s assembling Ford Cortinas under licence before moving on to building locally-designed models with licence-built Mitsubishi engines.

"We have similar product lines to Mitsubishi that could provoke conflicts for each other's customers in Japan," Synn told Bloomberg News. "We want to build up our own exclusive sales network in Japan."

The company plans to boost sales to 30,000 units sold through 100 dealers, Bloomberg said.