* Kona is Hyundai's first subcompact SUV
* Hyundai plans to launch large SUV by 2020
GOYANG, South Korea, June 13 Hyundai Motor
on Tuesday unveiled its first subcompact sport
utility vehicle (SUV) for advanced markets including the United
States, Europe and South Korea, betting on the model to offset
sliding sales in China.
The South Korean automaker also said it would launch an
electric version of the Kona small SUV next year and a new large
SUV by 2020 in a bid to catch up with rivals in the booming SUV
Hyundai looks like missing its annual sales target for a
third consecutive year due to the unpopularity of its mainstay
small sedans and political tensions between Beijing and Seoul
which have battered sales in China, its biggest market.
The automaker previously sold subcompact SUVs only in
emerging markets, missing out on strong growth in the segment in
South Korea, the United States and Europe. The subcompact SUV
segment is the top-performing segment, growing an annual average
of 46 percent from 2010 to 2016, Hyundai said, citing IHS
In South Korea, the Kona, which is positioned below
Hyundai's Tucson compact SUV, features a 1.6-litre gasoline or
diesel engine and competes with Ssangyong Motor's
Tivoli, Renault's QM3 and GM's Trax.
Hyundai is targeting annual production of 135,000 Kona
models in South Korea next year, after shifting some output of
lower-margin Accent cars to Kia Motors' factory in
Mexico, a source told Reuters.
Hyundai and its affiliate Kia in January said they aimed to
increase global sales by 5 percent this year, but their combined
sales fell 7 percent from January to May this year, hit by
slowing sales in China and the United States.
In China, negative sentiment stemming from Seoul's decision
to deploy a U.S. anti-missile system exacerbated its sales fall
in the country, where it is already suffering from a lack of SUV
line-ups and poor brand perception.
In the United States, the automaker was one of the poorest
performers through May, with sales down 4.8 percent in a market
that fell 2.1 percent. The U.S. safety regulator has launched a
probe into whether Hyundai and Kia recalled 1.7 million vehicles
in a timely manner.
In South Korea, its sales were nearly flat this year.
Kia will join Hyundai in launching its subcompact SUV,
Stonic, starting next month.
The South Korean duo also plans to roll out full electric
versions of the Kona next year, another person familiar with the
plan previously told Reuters.
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Stephen Coates)