SEOUL, April 20 Hyundai Motor Co
unveiled a new concept car it made only for China at the
Shanghai auto show on Saturday, and plans to launch the model
late this year into a market that is replacing the United States
and Europe as a major growth driver for the South Korean firm
and its affiliate Kia Motors.
The Mistra model is larger than Hyundai's Elantra compact
but smaller than its Sonata mid-sized sedan, a spokesman for the
Reuters reported last July that Hyundai was preparing its
China-only model, tapping into a growing number of the country's
middle-class who want affordability, but also the space and
upscale feel of a mid-size vehicle. A person
with direct knowledge of the new model said then that it had
been designed to compete with Nissan Motor Co Ltd's
Sylphy, which the Japanese automaker successfully developed from
its smaller Tiida model.
The Mistra concept is "a strategic model for China developed
to secure a clear position in the mid-sized premium market in
China and a car which reflected the needs and preference of
Chinese customers from the development stage," Hyundai said in a
Hyundai's China sales jumped 41 percent to a record 260,716
in January-March, boosted by a third Chinese plant that began
production late last year and by a territorial dispute between
Beijing and Tokyo that battered sales of Japanese rivals.
Kia's first-quarter China sales rose 26 percent
to 137,567 vehicles.
Hyundai has said it aims to increase its China sales by more
than 13 percent to 970,000 vehicles this year, though analysts
see the company topping 1 million. Kia aims to
raise its China sales by 4 percent to 500,000 this year.
Hyundai, which with Kia ranks fifth in global sales,
outperformed the industry in the United States and Europe after
the global financial crisis, but lagged rivals in China. This
year, however, the South Korean firm is seen underperforming in
the U.S. and Europe, while growing faster than the market in
China, analysts forecast.
In China, Hyundai has a partnership with state-owned BAIC
Group, while Kia has a tie-up with Dongfeng Motor Group Co Ltd
and Jiangsu Yueda Investment Co Ltd.