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Hyundai Adds Turbo, Hybrid Sonatas to Boost U.S. Sales Gains

John Krafcik, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America
John Krafcik, president and chief executive officer of Hyundai Motor America. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg

Hyundai Motor Co., headed for record U.S. sales, said new turbo-charged and hybrid-electric versions of the Sonata midsize sedan may help boost deliveries of the model to at least 200,000 as early as next year.

South Korea’s largest automaker may sell about 190,000 Sonatas in the U.S. this year, said John Krafcik, chief executive officer of Seoul-based Hyundai’s U.S. unit. That’s 58 percent more than last year and 27 percent more than its previous record. Capacity constraints make it tough to expand much beyond 200,000 units, Krafcik said.

“If we had more capacity, I’d be comfortable in saying the Turbo is going to generate remarkable” incremental sales, he said in an interview yesterday in La Jolla, California. The Montgomery, Alabama, plant that makes the car begins building Elantra compacts late this year, moderating production of the Sonata.

Hyundai’s push to overhaul model designs, boost quality and maintain 10-year/100,000 mile warranties on U.S. models, which typically sell for less than rivals Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co.’s vehicles, has fueled a 19.8 percent expansion this year through September. U.S. deliveries should top 500,000 this year and grow further in 2011 with the added Sonata models, Equus luxury car and revamped Elantra, Krafcik said.

Hyundai was unchanged in Seoul trading as of 12:02 p.m. The stock has gained 33 percent in 2010.

274-Horsepower Sonata

The 2.0-liter, 274-horsepower Sonata Turbo sedan, which began shipping to U.S. dealers this week, has a base price of $24,145, or about $1,500 more than the 2.4-liter engine Sonatas already on sale.

“This is extending Sonata into a little bit richer segment, so there will be a little bit more profit for the Turbo,” Krafcik said, without elaborating.

The hybrid Sonata, which will be built in South Korea, arrives in “late November or early December,” and has “a bit more of a premium” price than the Turbo grade, Krafcik said. He declined to give a volume goal for the car, which uses a lithium-polymer battery pack rather than the nickel-metal hydride type used in Toyota and Honda hybrids.

Hyundai’s U.S. operations are based in Fountain Valley, California.

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