SEOUL South Korea's Hyundai Motor (005380.KS) on Sunday unveiled its small sport utility vehicle (SUV) concept targeted at the Chinese market, planning to join a flurry of rivals in tapping the growing segment in the world's biggest market.
Hyundai said it had picked popular Korean actor Kim Soo-hyun to promote the subcompact SUV ix25, to capitalize on the Korean pop culture boom in wooing Chinese customers aged between 25 and 35.
Small SUVs are a bright spot in key markets from China and India to the United States and Europe, offering the functionality and space of SUVs in an affordable small vehicle.
In China, General Motors (GM.N) and Ford Motor (F.N) are offering small SUVs Trax and EcoSport, respectively, among other carmakers.
The ix25 concept, which debuted at the Beijing auto show, is smaller than Hyundai's Tucson compact SUV and will go into sales in the second half of this year, Hyundai said.
Hyundai, which now sells a mini-SUV only in Brazil, did not say whether it will roll out similar products in other key markets such as India, the United States and Europe.
Hyundai, which ranks fifth in global sales along with affiliate Kia Motors (000270.KS), hopes the upcoming model will help retain its momentum in China, which generates 22 percent of its sales.
With Hyundai's sales in the United States and Europe stagnating, China is a bright spot for the carmaker. Its China sales rose 9 percent to 270,347 vehicles in the period from January to March, compared to a year earlier.
Hyundai's chief financial officer earlier said the firm hoped to boost China sales by more than 10 percent to more than 1.13 million vehicles this year, aided by a capacity hike at its third Chinese plant and a new commercial vehicle factory there.
Kia unveiled the K4 family sedan concept aimed at Chinese customers in their 30s and 40s, planning to roll out the model in the second half of this year. ($1=1037.6500 Korean won)
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)