SUV hits safety bar­rier

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - News - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER

A safety bar­rier has blocked Hyundai’s am­bi­tious drive into the boom­ing com­pact SUV class.

Its up­com­ing ix25 baby is be­ing built in In­dia to cut costs but will only be a four-star safety car, one short of the stan­dard for Australia.

So Hyundai fans will have to wait as much as two years be­fore a bet­ter and safer car, based on the com­pany’s In­trado con­cept from the Geneva mo­tor show in 2014, is ready to go.

The ix35 will also move out of the com­pact class later this year when a slightly larger all­new model ar­rives in Australia and it changes its name back to Tucson.

“We won’t have a small SUV for two or three years. We will have to wait a few years un­til the global small SUV is launched and comes to Australia,” says Hyundai Australia COO John Elsworth.

“When we move from ix35 to Tus­con in quar­ter three we won’t have a ve­hi­cle in that seg­ment.”

Elsworth is non­com­mit­tal about the name change. He ad­mits an ix25 is com­ing but says it’s fo­cused on left-hand drive and low-cost coun­tries in Asia, and points to the In­trado as the di­rec­tion for Australia.

“We’re wait­ing for the global SUV, which is a dif­fer­ent car. Look at the In­trado,” he says.

Elsworth is blunt about the rea­son for the de­ci­sion and the sub­se­quent de­lay.

“It will be pro­duced in In­dia for RHD, but as far as we are aware it will not meet the min­i­mum safety stan­dard for us in Australia. That’s five-star ANCAP”.

Hyundai is cur­rently bat­tling on a num­ber of fronts to get its line-up right for Australia.

It is con­fi­dent of sell­ing more than 100,000 cars in 2015, a bench­mark it cleared for the first time last year, but is bat­tling to make the num­bers work for the next-gen­er­a­tion i10 and i20 mod­els it needs in the sub-$15,000 class.

The weak­ness of the Aus­tralian dollar against the euro is cre­at­ing prob­lems, Elsworth says.

“The new-gen­er­a­tion cars com­ing out of Europe are a very chal­leng­ing busi­ness case,” he says. “We’ll get back to you on that. We’re still work­ing on the plan.

“It’s very pre­ma­ture. It’s a work in progress. Our CEO was in Korea last month start­ing the dis­cus­sions.”

On the name game, Elsworth shrugs off any crit­i­cism of the de­ci­sion to switch the ix35 to Tucson, the name it wore when the model was first in­tro­duced.

“It’s a global nam­ing strat­egy. It doesn’t mat­ter what I think. It’s just chang­ing,” says Elsworth.

“Some­times the im­por­tance of the name can be over­stated. There are some cars with odd names that sold well. We’ve just got to ed­u­cate the mar­ket.”

“It’s a mar­ket­ing chal­lenge. It’s prob­a­bly not the most ef­fi­cient way to mar­ket cars.”

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