Hyundai: High-mpg, high-tech

Automotive News reports on Hyundai's 2010 model line-up.

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Hyundai has a twofold goal: Become the fuel economy leader in the United States by 2015 and show technological prowess.

On the schedule for the next three years are smaller engines, direct-injection gasoline engines, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and fuel cell technology. Hyundai calls the fuel economy initiative Blue Drive; the specific models will be labeled Blue Edition.

At the same time, Hyundai is trying to go upscale. The Equus, a large, rear-drive luxury sedan with a V-8, bows next summer. The car, priced about $60,000, is aimed at the BMW 5 series and Mercedes-Benz E class.

Hyundai's grand plan is to elevate the automaker's global image.

"We want to show our technology and improve our image, not necessarily make money on hybrids," said Yang Woong-chul, research and development president at Hyundai-Kia Motors. "We want to get people to drive our cars. We need to get people to the dealerships.

"We want to be the leader in fuel economy and alternative fuels. Hyundai will be seen as a technology-driven brand with things like eight-speed automatic transmissions and telematics. We're going after Prius and Volt" with a plug-in, Yang said during an interview at the Seoul motor show in April.

Nearly all of the technology will be built in-house, he added.

Here is a glimpse of Hyundai's vehicle plans for the United States for the 2010 through 2012 model years.

Accent: The Accent Blue Edition debuts for the 2010 model year.

Blue Drive's mission is to create models with less content and less weight, resulting in a lower price and higher miles per gallon. For example, models will have a lower gear ratio and tires with less rolling resistance. A 1 to 2 mpg improvement is expected.

A lower sticker price will reflect the elimination of such equipment as power windows and door locks.

The Accent subcompact will be redesigned for the 2011 or 2012 model year.

Small coupe: A new, front-wheel-drive coupe will be the spiritual successor to the sporty Tiburon coupe, which went out of production at the end of the 2008 model year. The new coupe will be a 2012 model, powered by Hyundai's new 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.

Elantra: The Elantra small car will offer a Blue Edition for the 2010 model year. A redesign is planned for the 2012 model year.

Sonata: The Sonata mid-sized sedan will be the first Hyundai vehicle to offer the automaker's hybrid power train, arriving at the end of 2010. The redesigned Sonata goes on sale early next year with the automaker's first direct-injection gasoline engine, a four-cylinder.

The Sonata may be the first Hyundai model offered with a double-clutch transmission.

Azera: The near-luxury sedan is expected to be dropped; the timing is unclear.

Genesis: The 2010 Genesis Coupe went on sale in February. The RWD car targets the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang.

The Genesis Coupe will be the first Hyundai nameplate to offer weekend racers a performance version, called R-Spec. Sales begin later this year. The stripped-down model is lighter and $3,000 less expensive than the nonracer base Coupe.

In the future, R-Spec racing enhancements will be offered in other, unspecified Hyundai nameplates.

A freshening is planned for the 2011 Genesis sedan along with the introduction of a Hyundai-engineered eight-speed automatic transmission. A 2 percent boost in fuel economy is expected.

Equus: Hyundai is aiming the Equus sedan at high-end BMW, Lexus and Mercedes sedans. A sticker price of less than $60,000 is expected when sales begin next summer. Sales in South Korea began this year.

Amenities include a lane departure warning system, adaptive cruise control, heated steering wheel, and a rear seat that massages the passenger's back. A built-in cooler keeps beverages cold.

The Equus was developed on the RWD Genesis sedan platform; the wheelbase was stretched 4.3 inches. The Equus is 11.4 inches longer than a 2010 Mercedes E-class sedan. The Genesis and Equus sedans will share a 375 horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8.

Blue-Will: This is the name given to Hyundai's plug-in hybrid concept. The production vehicle is expected to draw inspiration from the Blue-Will concept shown at the Seoul show.

Woong-chul says a fuel cell model is scheduled to arrive here by the end of 2012. The lithium ion battery will be supplied by LG Chem.

The Blue-Will concept is a sporty four-door sedan powered by a 152-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, mated to a continuously variable transmission and a 100-kilowatt electric motor. Hyundai says the concept gets an estimated 50 to 55 mpg. On a single charge, it can go about 38 miles in electric mode, the company says.

Fuel cell vehicle: Yang says a fuel cell vehicle could be ready by 2012 in small volumes. He did not specify the type of model. A fleet customer likely would be first to get it. Yang says Hyundai is looking for a partnership with a U.S. city to study vehicle use.

Crossover: A seven-seat crossover has been approved for the United States and likely will appear in the 2012 model year. The vehicle will be based on the HED-5 concept, which debuted at the 2008 Geneva motor show.

Hyundai's new 268 hp, 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is expected to be offered. The engine incorporates gasoline direct injection to boost fuel economy. Variants of that engine will be used in other models.

Tucson: The redesigned 2010 Tucson crossover debuts in December at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Sales begin late this year or early next. Insiders say the next Tucson is larger and will be powered by a four-cylinder engine. The V-6 will be dropped.

Santa Fe: The crossover will be redesigned for the 2011 model year. A four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic transmission will be added.

Veracruz: No significant changes are planned for the Veracruz crossover; its future is uncertain.

Entourage: A 2010 Entourage minivan will be offered for a few months, then dropped at year end.

(Source: Automotive News)

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