Hyundai to Redesign Sonata After Slow Sales, to be Launched in 2017

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After we were writing about Sonata’s slowest sales in the US-market, now and according to Wards Auto, Hyundai accepted the situation and is planning a redesign for the 2015 Sonata, after the model failed to capture midsize sedan buyers’ interest.

“It’s a very handsome vehicle, (but) it’s not as distinctive as the vehicle it (followed),” Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America CEO, tells WardsAuto in an interview here during the 2015 North American International Auto Show.

The 2015 Sonata, launched last summer (you can take a look into our First Drive and Review articles), has a more bold and premium design but at the same sime, a little bit bored, more after take a look into the previous generation.

The previous generation Sonata YF showed Fluidic Sculpture 1.0 design language and became the automaker’s first model in the U.S. to sell more than 200,000 units in a year.

In April of last year, Zuchowski told media Hyundai didn’t have to “stand on a table” anymore in terms of styling, because it thought it had firmly established itself as a midsize sedan that had become top-of-mind for buyers, in the same way as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

The Camry and Accord, the No.1 and No.2 best-selling midsize cars in the U.S., never have been known for their flashy exteriors, although Toyota is trying to change that with the Camry’s ’15 refresh.

But Hyundai soon discovered not having a distinctive appearance, and one similar to Camry and Accord’s, resulted in it having to incentivize the new Sonata more than expected to move the car off dealer lots.

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Last year’s U.S. sales of the Sonata, 216,936 units, were disappointing to Hyundai, up just 6.5% over 2013.

“If we’re priced comparably, and we appear comparable, it’s always difficult to win that battle with those more well-established, well-entrenched (models),” Zuchowski says.

He notes the new Sonata is selling well with brand loyalists, but Hyundai is not getting the conquest buyers it did with the old model.

“I told the story to our parent company (of driving the old Sonata) home, (and) people were rolling down their window at stop signs, following me, (asking), ‘What is that? Where can I get it?’

“And I don’t get that” with the new one, Zuchowski continues. “That was free advertising, right? People would seek us out because we look different. And we don’t get that now.”

The redesign of the current Sonata will coincide with the car’s midcycle refresh, which should be in the ’17 or ’18 model year. “It’s hard to get anything (done sooner) than midcycle with the tooling involved,” Zuchowski notes, adding Hyundai knows “exactly what we want to do, and we’re busy working on it right now.”

He calls the experience of pulling back on the design of the car an important future lesson for product development. “The more important thing is to understand we always need to keep our styling edge. We can’t let ourselves get closer to the pack.”

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  • Tiger Urrete

    This new Sonata LF is a handsome car.
    The only problem is that it looks a little bit too similar to the YF.

  • Mobis21

    The main problems with the car are:
    1. Too generic to invisible exterior styling. Read: Timid
    2. Average fuel economy and lower engine output. Read: Competes well but does not beat the competition.

    Hyundai could fix the Sonata’s refresh by injecting heavy doses of the Genesis DNA design. Not necessary to raise the horsepower but Increase torque output of their 2.4 liter and 2.0 turbo. This will make the car move much quicker.

  • Jeff

    Judging by the looks of the next generation Elantra, Accent and Optima expect more of the same.

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  • Erica Jamison

    See? It would have sold better if they just used the word “Bold” enough in their marketing.

  • Annie Dote

    The car looks fine. Only 2 problems.
    1. The steering sucks
    2. The engines sounds like crap

    #1 is a deal breaker

    • Jagmeet S Sandhu

      The engine and the lock sound.

    • Mobis21

      Annie I disagree about the Sonata’s looks. It does look “fine” if fine is only what Hyundai wants. But to many potential buyers it does not look premium and isn’t that what Hyundai’s corporate heads were saying that is what they wanted the brand to represent? Well they failed with the Sonata that is why they are doing an unscheduled refresh come late 2016.

      • Delcy Voisine

        Line ALL sedans of that size and even those considered to be luxurious, in a circle so that the viewer can eye each one moving from one car to the next and if the viewer is honest, he will have to agree that the Sonata has the most refined and elegant look of any

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  • Chris

    The reason the ’15 model was a conservative redesign resulted from slower sales in the home market where the prior generation was seen as too bold. I’m glad to see they’re addressing it quickly because it is a boring design inside and out.

  • Ron /ram

    I traded a 2012 Honda accord coupe 4 cyl froa 2015 Sonata,still trying to adjust to it..Regardless of these idiots saying the 2011 – 2014 were better styles, the engine sucked on those with recalls & a loud road noise..This car is very quiet,and it drives very smooth..