SEOUL, March 4 (Reuters) - South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co on Tuesday unveiled a revamped version of its key Sonata sedan, switching to a more muted design as the auto maker seeks to win back conservative customers at home who have been switching to imported vehicles.
The new version of Hyundai’s second best-selling car is being launched as the company reels from falling sales and market share, as well as a series of recalls and a subsequent slide in United States reliability rankings.
Details of pricing and sales targets for the new Sonata weren’t immediately disclosed. Hyundai is expected to roll out of the bread-and-butter model in South Korea late in March, followed by the U.S. and other key markets.
The previous Sonata, launched in 2009, helped the auto maker win a record market share in the United States, where buyers liked its distinctive styling and improved performance. Its annual sales in the U.S. nearly doubled, to 230,605, in 2012 compared with 2009.
That bolder styling went down less well with conservative consumers in South Korea, where sales of imported vehicles surged after international trade agreements resulted in lower import tariffs and showroom prices.
“The new Sonata is key for Hyundai to restore sales and reputation,” said Lee Sang-hyun, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities.
Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell