Hyundai unveiled the fourth-generation model of its trademark Santa Fe sports utility vehicle on Wednesday, as part of its strategy to double its SUV lineup in three years amid rising demand for such vehicles in the global market.
Hyundai said it aimed to double its SUV models to eight by 2020, releasing every model in five size segments. The company launched its compact Kona SUV last year, followed by a new fuel cell vehicle, the Nexo, launched at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month.
The company said two more SUV models — a big one larger than the Santa Fe (Maxcruz) and one smaller than the Kona — will be for sale by 2020. Hyundai also plans to add more electric SUV models to widen customer choice.
“We hope that the new Santa Fe will create a strong sales storm in the global SUV stage beyond the domestic market, as well as boost our brand image one step higher,” said Lee Kwang-guk, vice president of the company, in his presentation at an exhibition center in Goyang. “I am sure that the new Santa Fe will be a masterpiece in the mid-sized SUV segment, satisfying and impressing customers deeply.”
The company’s heir apparent and vice chairman Chung Eui-sun is leading the change, widening its scope from sedans to SUVs. Chung demonstrated the Kona in June last year, and attended the launch event of the Nexo in January.
Analysts say that SUVs will be key for Hyundai’s new models this year. “Kona will be exported in the first quarter of 2018, while the fourth-generation of Santa Fe is also launched. In the third quarter, Tucson Facelift will hit the market, followed by the Genesis SUV and an A-segment SUV in the fourth quarter,” said Esther Yim, an analyst at Samsung Securities.
The launch of the new SUV comes as the automaker is losing its footing in the U.S. and China, the two biggest markets in the world, partly due to lack of new models and negative sentiments against South Korean products. Sales in China tumbled 27.9% to 817,000 units in 2017 from a year ago, while sales in the U.S. fell 11.5% to 686,000 during the same period.
Shares in Hyundai Motor rose 4.23% to 160,000 won on Wednesday, erasing all of its 0.97% loss on the previous day.