High hopes

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Motoring -

The un­veil­ing of the all-new Hyundai Venue ahead of its Aus­tralian ar­rival in the sec­ond half of the year her­alds a sig­nif­i­cant first-time en­trant for the South Korean brand as it looks to re­assert it­self as a dom­i­nant force at the com­pact end of the mar­ket.

Hyundai Mo­tor Co Aus­tralia has been hanging on this model for years, with the sales vol­ume of its light-sized pas­sen­ger cars erod­ing after the su­per­pop­u­lar Korean-built Getz pe­tered out in 2011 and the In­dian-sourced i20 – which ar­rived to re­place the Getz in 2010 – dis­ap­peared in 2016.

Com­pli­ca­tions with its pro­duc­tion source in Turkey has kept the new­gen­er­a­tion i20 – and the prospect of an i10 – off the Aus­tralian mar­ket, leav­ing the age­ing Ac­cent as Hyundai’s sole con­tender in the light-car class, sol­dier­ing on with use­ful vol­ume in this Rb-se­ries fourth gen­er­a­tion that

launched way back in 2011, but with stock now be­gin­ning to run dry.

A new ‘HC’ gen­er­a­tion of Ac­cent was un­veiled more than two years ago, launch­ing glob­ally dur­ing 2017, but, again, pro­duc­tion sources – Mexico and In­dia – and is­sues sur­round­ing right-hand-drive availabili­ty, suitable Aus­tralian-mar­ket spec­i­fi­ca­tion, cost of trans­porta­tion and so on have kept it off the boat.

There is no doubt that Hyundai must have a price-lead­ing en­trant start­ing be­low $20,000.

This is a given for one of the top brands in Aus­tralia, which needs high lev­els of traf­fic in its show­rooms as it looks to push its an­nual vol­ume back up past 100,000 units after slip­ping since 2016, largely as a re­sult of di­min­ish­ing vol­ume in the light and small pas­sen­ger-car seg­ments.

But, of course, it does not have to be a tra­di­tional hatch or sedan, par­tic­u­larly as the mar­ket shifts to­wards SUVS and as all-new mod­els come to the fore.

So just as Hyundai now puts a heavy em­pha­sis on the Kona small SUV to ease the down­ward pres­sure on i30 and Elantra, the smaller Venue is set to boost its for­tunes at the gate­way to the brand.

Ar­riv­ing at about $15,000 will be a tough ask, but the greater the dis­tance be­tween Venue and Kona, which starts at $23,500, the fewer walk­outs from the show­room and can­ni­bal­i­sa­tion of sales be­tween the two.

Whether Venue can match the sales heights of Ac­cent or the ear­lier Getz and i20 is a ques­tion with­out an an­swer, but a chal­lenge Hyundai Mo­tor Co Aus­tralia will surely set for its se­nior man­age­ment team, pro­vid­ing it comes in at a low enough price point.

In the case of Ac­cent, this equates to about 19,000 units a year – and with Getz, closer to 22,000.

The i20 rose as high as 15,000, although in con­cert with Ac­cent, the two man­aged 20,000-plus units com­bined.

But of­fi­cial VFACTS sales fig­ures also show that the go­ing has been tough over the past few years, with sales heading south­ward in line with the gen­eral mar­ket slowdown, con­sumer move­ment away from light cars and other fac­tors such as dwin­dling sup­plies of age­ing mod­els and aborted busi­ness cases for their re­place­ments.

Ac­cent sales fell 10.8 per­cent last year to 15,675 units, and after the first three months this year, the light car is down 23 per­cent com­pared to the first quar­ter of 2018.

Hyundai’s over­all sales are down 13.6 per­cent, which is run­ning deeper than the to­tal mar­ket’s 7.8 per­cent de­cline.

It is in­struc­tive to note how Hyundai is far­ing in the next seg­ment up from light – small cars – where its biggest­selling and there­fore all-im­por­tant model, i30, and its sup­port­ing act, Elantra, are down 7.8 per­cent and 26 per­cent re­spec­tively this year.

In­deed, i30 has been strug­gling since the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion was in runout in 2016 and it racked up al­most 38,000 sales for the year.

With the model changeover, Hyundai shed 9000 sales in a sin­gle year – manag­ing only 28,780 in 2017, down 23.8 per­cent – and last year re­duced the rate of di­min­ish­ing returns to 2.1 per­cent with 28,188 runs on the board.

Elantra, too, has strug­gled with its 3843 sales last year mark­ing a 31.5 per­cent drop-off, leav­ing Hyundai’s com­bined sales in the small-car seg­ment at 32,223 units, which in­cludes 192 ex­am­ples of the more pre­mi­umplaced elec­tri­fied Ioniq range that launched to pri­vate cus­tomers in Novem­ber priced be­tween $33,990 and $48,990 plus on-road costs.

Year to date, Hyundai’s com­bined small-car sales are down 9.2 per­cent.

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