Posts Tagged ‘Hyundai’

Kia’s 2013 Rio SX sedan – loaded.

You’re no doubt familiar with the phrase, “Good things come in small packages.” When we talk about small cars, specifically the 2013 Kia Rio SX sedan, just about any one out there can have something positive to say about this stylish 4-door vehicle.

While it is classified as a compact automobile, the interior space may well surprise. OK, so you will not be holding any parties in the back seat any day soon, but as a mode of transport to take you and three adults to your destination, this Peter Schreyer-designed car need not offer any apologies to anyone.

Perhaps it’s not a car for drifting or even performing burnouts in a remote parking lot, but as a well-engineered and relatively-speaking stylish mode of transportation, this third-generation Rio blows the doors off its competition when the whole value-added package is examined. And not just inexpensive-this-should-appease-all-customers-value-added, either. There is an abundance of features – most standard – in this as tested at $21,895 sedan. And this model included a credible and intuitive navigation system with satellite radio, too.

How many brand new off the lot cars with a list price of just shy of $22 grand can you name that have a heated leather steering wheel?

The answer, to save you time and worry is none. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

But Kia has not stopped there. This delightful small car comes equipped with standard (note the use of the word standard) features such as:

  •    Rearview camera
  •    Fog lights
  •    17” alloy wheels and low-profile tires
  •    Bluetooth connectivity – and easy to set up into the bargain!
  •    Full navigation system
  •    Leather seats – front and back – again, on a $22,000 car – leather!
  •    Heated seats up front
  •     Power windows and locks
  •     Automatic climate control
  •     Power folding heated side mirrors
  •     Power sunroof
  •     Smart key with push button start
  •     Vehicle stability management
  •     Electronic stability control
  •     4-wheel disc brakes (larger than LX and EX models) – and ABS
  •     6 airbags
  •      A 1.6L Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) 4-cylinder engine providing 138hp and 123 foot pounds of torque.

All of the above and also a more than respectable EnerGuide/Government of Canada gas consumption rating of 6.8L/100 city, 4.9L/100km which to the non-metric among you translates into 42 mpg city and 58 mpg on the highway.

With its sport-tuned suspension, 17” wheels and available 6-speed automatic transmission, good things do indeed, come in small packages.

Soaking wet and weighing in at just over 2,400 pounds, this smart-looking, surprisingly spacious and quite respectable small sedan will not look out of place on many driveways. Some owners may even make a point of leaving their Rios on their driveways – just to show off a little. Laugh if you like, but you know it’s going to happen.

Along with sister company Hyundai, Korean manufacturers are doing their bit to turn an often staid automotive industry on its ear. Even today, they are beating Japanese manufacturers at their own game by adding incredible and desired value-add all the way through their product lines.

But can they produce stylish in-demand cars? Yes.

Interior of the 2013 Kia Rio SX sedan – surprised? Don’t be.

Can they consistently engineer and build reliable vehicles. That’s how things seem – especially when you look at what may well be coming down the proverbial pike.

The conclusion? Well, that will be up to consumers. From this person’s perspective, these days, there are now several very attractive 800lb gorillas in the room from this one manufacturer.

And aren’t we all now just a little bit mad as hell? Perhaps. The next year or two will tell the complete story.

Almost across the board, Asian manufacturers and designers can continue to hold their head a little higher.

Based upon recent driving experiences, the more traditional Japanese car builders are upping their game, too. Will the North American Big Three respond? Let’s hope so. At the end of the day, it will strengthen the industry generally.

And for the record, did no-one learn anything from the days of too many multiple marques and variations just a few short years ago?

You can be sure that February 16, 2012 is a date that will long resonate in the hallways of Hyundai around the world – but especially here inCanada.

It was that morning when Richard Russell, Chair of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) opened an envelope and declared the 2012 Hyundai Elantra had been awarded AJAC’s Car of the Year.

Just a few moments before, a room full of media from across North America exploded when Steve Kelleher, President and CEO, Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. made the short walk to the podium to accept the “Best New Design” award for 2012 for the new and innovative Hyundai Veloster.

For Hyundai, this morning was, indeed a moment to savour.

Earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show on January 9, the Elantra was selected as the North American Car of the year for 2012.

A double honour; one that many had been quietly debating around water coolers and in the shadows for some weeks.

Validation for the Korean-based manufacturer who has slowly convinced many auto journalists and aficionados over recent years that their engineering, value proposition and fluidic styling were the real deal. In fact, back at the beginning of 2009 those two exact same awards were bestowed upon Hyundai’s rear-wheel drive sports coupe, the Genesis. What made this award all the more special was that the three finalists for this honour were all Korean manufacturers. Hyundai with the Accent and the Elantra and sister company, Kia, the upstart, new kids on the block, with the Optima.

No longer would Hyundai be considered a one trick pony – pun completely intended.

Now, the general public will have to pay attention to another Asian manufacturer of well-engineered, value-laden and stylish modes of transport for practically every budget.

Later the same morning, I was able to sit down with the affable Mr. Kelleher for a quiet, far-reaching and informative one-on-one interview as he and his staff slowly began to realize the enormity of their accomplishment.

DT: Congratulations on this win. Feel any different today than you did yesterday?

SK: Thank you. I have to admit that it was all a bit nerve wracking early on. While we did have finalists for two of the three cars, there was always the thought what if we split the vote? Even with the Veloster’s win earlier, we were still unsure.

DT: Now do you believe that consumers will afford Hyundai the respect that you deserve? Do you see a pay off now for the value proposition – that and the fact that you may now be more than just a rational purchase?

SK: We’re not about bragging rights. We do what we do very well and have been consistent in our styling, engineering and value-proposition for some time. It’s true that in the early years, we struggled. No question. But we stayed our course and made it through. 2011 was where many things went very well for us as a manufacturer and a marketer. From a consumer point of view, in the past, we would be perceived as a rational purchase – the price was right. But now, we offer a complete package. It’s not multiple choice. Now a car buyer will look at the design, the technology, the performance, the mileage – and, of course price and is more likely to want to buy us! Becoming an emotional purchase? That’s a change for us that while slow in coming, has built in momentum. We need to maintain that and build upon it.

You know, Japan has been looking at us for a few years now – as has Detroit. We believe that Japanese manufacturers will work very hard to regain any lost market share from 2011 as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and later flooding inThailand.

We respect our competition. All of it. It makes us stronger and hopefully better. We expect that Honda, for example, will do what they do best with their marketing and product, and will likely regain some of the market share they lost in 2011. Our goal is to build upon our successes.

DT: The Elantra saw an overall increase in sales acrossCanadaof 30.1%, representing 44,970 vehicles. This January, Hyundai sold 7,460 vehicles, an 11.6% increase over last year. Where do you believe your sustained growth is coming from?

SK: It’s a well-known fact that sales in Quebec and Eastern Canada for our various models have, until last year been the heart of our combined efforts inCanada. It’s practically been that way since 1984, our first full year in Canada. Ontario consumers have been rewarding us over these last few years with significant increased purchases. Approximately 20% each year. In fact, inCanadawe are fortunate to have enjoyed 37 consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth. It is our belief that going forward, we will likely not lose ground as far as market share goes. But we are not going to rest on our laurels and expect results.

Going forward, we need to continue to offer our loyal customers the innovation, styling and pricing they have come to expect. This morning, we unveiled a 2-door coupe of the Elantra; later this year, an exciting all new Santa Fe will be rolled out.

DT: So, complacency is not about to set in any time soon?

SK: (smiling) Let’s hope not! We’re serious about who we are and what we can do. As a global corporation we’re proud and pleased to be in the position we are today. But we keep thinking “what have we done lately?” Just a few days ago I was in Korea for a series of meetings with head office. I also spent time in our design facility. The Namyang R&D Centre located in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi (about one hour south of Seoul) is a world-class technology research centre. Hyundai now employs approximately 10,000 engineers, designers and researchers here working around the clock to create and develop the best automobiles in performance, quality, and eco-friendliness. A year ago, it was around 8,000.

DT: Since Hyundai came to Canada, you made it clear that value-pricing and innovation was going to be your calling card. The Pony arrived with three price points: $3,999; $4,999; and, $5,999 – almost take it or leave it. Should what you are accomplishing today inCanadaand many other major markets come as a surprise?

SK: Yes, the Pony! It’s true; we made no secret of our planned intent from day one. In many ways, we took what many of our Japanese friends were already doing and stayed pretty much on message.

DT: How does Hyundai consistently package great styling, quality and technology for such a great price?

SK: Obviously, we have been true to our intent. We work hard as a corporation to keep manufacturing costs as low as we can. We have the added advantage of producing our own steel inKoreain our own plants. Hyundai is a global entity with a great deal of vertical integration. Stepping back, consider the message – some would say commitment – from our Chairman Mong-Koo Chung. He stated that in 2011 Hyundai Motor Company would launch a campaign to ensure the energy for growth with a new slogan: “New thinking. New Possibilities.”

DT: Meaning?

SK: Simply, new ideas create new values. Hyundai will respond to the fast-changing international management environment by constructing a system for organic cooperation between production factory and sales headquarters in each country worldwide.

DT: So there is buy-in around the world – including Canada?

SK: Yes. Absolutely. Our corporate team and dealer network has been working harder to prioritize our customers and also the talent in all departments. It’s important we remain competitive. We will continue to do so through exceptional and even fundamental technologies; with environmental management and by continuously expanding our overall R&D and investment in eco-friendly vehicles. Hyundai Motor Company will work hard to provide this new value to yet more customers.

We call it our modern premium concept. We need to give our customers the best car per dollar. What it means is that we put the features in the vehicle that people really want and need. Features in a compact car that are unheard of. Heated rear seats in the Elantra for example. We look at our competition. Very closely. We also noticed that some manufacturers were losing some of the quality on the interior. We made it clear internally; there could be no compromise. No damage to the integrity of the brand.

DT: In a relatively short space of time, Hyundai has turned the industry on its ear. Now you have a line up of vehicles that can cater to almost any budget. Starting with the Accent and all the way to your super-premium Equus – the flagship marque. Is being all things to all people a misstep?

SK: It’s tough to sell both. Each buyer’s wants and needs are so different. Two things: Equus and Genesis as a halo have done a lot for us as a manufacturer. I think they’re brand builders. It adds credibility. But is it the right move? Maybe… perhaps. Let’s look atToyota for example and their Avalon. Similar situation to ours. Do they sell many? No, not really. But it does sell and it does not seem to affect their brand – overall.

DT: OK then, so why create an Equus… a Genesis? Because you can?

SK. (laughs) Well, there is truth in that. But regardless, at this stage, if we do bring product to market, even with limited production, it must still be designed and built with our core principals in mind.

DT: Where do you see the industry going long-term?

SK: Long term? This year? Next year? Five years from now?

DT: Do you see more hybrids, for example?

SK: There’ll be variations. They may not sell well. But they will be there. We need to produce them for many reasons, optics included. However, technological innovations for the internal combustion engine will continue. Remember our engineers were the first to bring out gasoline-injection. Everything you can do to increase efficiencies will continue to be developed. We mentioned our steel plant earlier. We’re now producing lighter, much stronger steel than before. This year? The light truck market will continue to do well, but will probably slowly decline – unless gas prices go really high. Probably flat, over 2011. Perhaps a 2 – 3% increase across the board…

DT: Does Canada have much influence in Korea as far as product development is concerned?

SK: Well, the Elantra for North America has heated rear seats. Not available elsewhere.Canadadoes have influence, definitely. From the get go, Canadian input from this cold weather climate market was important. We even set up a cold weather test facility here.

Getting back to your earlier question; I also believe that there will be greater innovation in 4-cylinder engines – from everyone – and especially ourselves. Turbo-charge technology will continue to be developed to bring performance and economy to the fore. Wait until the all new Santa Fe comes out…

DT: Yes…?

SK: (grinning) That’s about all I’m allowed to say right now! But it is something. You’ll see soon enough!

DT: Are there similarities to the car market in Korea compared to Canada?

SK: The fundamental difference is that larger cars are the norm; just like in Japan. OK, so that’s a generalization. The car market in Korean is pretty much the same size inCanada. But look around the roads for Hyundais and you’ll see more Genesis, Equus and of course Sonata than you will our own compact and sub-compact cars.

DT: Now that’s a trend you’d like to emulate here.

SK: Yes, but as long as we can sell and make competitive automobiles for any market, that’s our job.

DT: Thank you.

Just announced earlier this morning from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) announced the names of 11 vehicles that will now compete for 2012 Canadian Car, and Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

The annual event known as Testfest and held in Niagara-on-the-Lake, brought 70 Canadian automotive journalists together to road and track test some 57, 2012 model year vehicles now arriving in dealer showrooms.

Today’s announcement followed almost a week of rigourous road and track testing by AJAC members, with the purpose of narrowing a field of 57 entries down to winners in 11 categories.

The winners in the 11 categories are:

  • Best New Small Car under $21K: Hyundai Accent
  • Best New Small Car over $21K: Hyundai Elantra
  • Best New Family Car under $30K: KIA Optima LX
  • Best New Family Car over $30K: KIA Optima Hybrid
  • Best New Luxury Car: Mercedes-Benz C-Class C350 4MATICSedan
  • Best New Sports/Performance Car under $50K: Hyundai Veloster
  • Best New Sports/Performance Car over $50K: BMW 1 Series M Coupe
  • Best New Prestige Car over $75K: Mercedes-Benz S-Class S350 Bluetec 4MATIC
  • Best New SUV/CUV under $35K: Dodge Journey
  • Best New SUV/SUV $35K-60K: Volkswagen Touareg TDI Clean Diesel
  • Best New SUV/CUV over $60K: BMW X3

Did you spot the lonely North American automobile? Does this surprise you? Seriously?

The AJAC 2011 car of the year was General Motors Cruz; is that once highly regarded vehicle now considered flavour of the month – yesterday’s news?

Of the 70 Canadian journalists who participated in Testfest this month, there are few, if any changes from last year. Why the apparent about face? Public opinion? Or can North America not build a decent automobile? Hold on a moment; consider Honda Canada with their Alliston manufacturing facilities. Recently back on line at full production, they are producing between 1,400 and 1,600 Honda Civics per day for the North American market. A Japanese car, built in Canada that may well lay claim shortly to its 14th consecutive year of being Canada’s number one selling car. When was the last time we saw that honourable statistic bestowed upon one of Detroit’s Big 3? Oh yes, right… before there was any serious competition from European or Asian manufacturers, that’s when.

I digress. As can clearly be seen, Korean automakers did extremely well, actually winning five of the 11 categories — including the KIA Optima, which sewed up both family car categories.

If you follow cars, the end result may not come as a complete surprise to many. For the past couple of years, Korean manufacturers Hyundai and Kia, a once bankrupt manufacturer not too many years ago has been bringing cars to the market with tremendous style and appeal while loaded with safety features and excellent value for the dollar.

We’ll still have to wait a few months to hear the declared overall winners for 2012 Canadian Car of the Year and Utility Vehicle of the Year; they’ll be announced at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto in February 2012.

One wonders; given the bailouts in North America to some automakers who were teetering on the brink, can they too, in the future return to their once former glory? Or are the stakes quite simply way too high?

Time and public opinion will tell.

These days, even with gas prices running at least 40% higher than they were 12 months ago, car manufacturers and their dealers are doing just about anything and everything they possibly can to entice you behind the wheel of a brand new vehicle.

Scan your newspaper (yes, people still do that, you know) and check out the full-page advertisements for new cars, trucks, SUVs and vans on either a Saturday or Sunday and be prepared to be bamboozled and confused.

Sometimes the colours of type in the advertisement will subliminally tell you who the manufacturer is. Blue? Well, that’s easy – it’s Ford. No, wait; it could be Hyundai – my mistake. Wrong shade of blue. Red? Got to be Toyota – or is it Honda?

Even after a credit meltdown these past couple of years, the inducements are often still beyond belief. For example, what follows are just some things that Detroit and Asia have seen fit to throw at us,  and, for the record not all necessarily bundled together. Usually.

  • No money down.
  • No security deposit.
  • Zero percent financing.
  • We’ll pay the tax!
  • First three months payments are on us!
  • Free gas for a year.
  • Save $x per gallon/per liter for 12 months.
  • Free delivery.
  • Free tank of gas.
  • Free oil changes for as long as you own the vehicle.
  • Free tires for as long as you own the vehicle.
  • No charge scheduled maintenance.
  • Free courtesy vehicle when your car is in the dealer’s shop.
  • And my personal favorite, employee pricing – meaning you were being taken if you considered paying anything close to the suggested MSRP.

As alluded earlier, business, generally thanks to the recent ‘downturn’ in the economy took a nosedive. Automobile manufacturers went cap in
hand to their respective governments looking for bailout money. Why, like the debacle in the mortgage market, Detroit especially, in its own inimitable fashion followed suit and offered the automotive equivalent of mortgage-backed securities, one of the core reasons for the financial meltdown we all still struggle to make our way out from under. Easy credit and alarmingly disarming terms and sales tactics sucked in many individuals who seemed to believe that, the ‘dream’ that Madison Avenue had been promising for years, was attainable.

Just sign here. And here. Here, too.

People… are we not going down that very same road again?  If something sounds to good to be true…

Did we learn nothing?

That, my friends, is the perfect example of a simple yet rhetorical question.