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Hyundai Targets Corolla, Civic With Revamped Elantra Small Car

Hyundai Motor Co., which cut into Toyota Motor Corp.’s and Honda Motor Co.’s U.S. midsize-sedan sales this year, aims to increase its share of the small-car market with a more fuel-efficient, restyled Elantra.

The 2011 Elantra sedan, which goes on sale early next year, will deliver 40 miles per gallon in highway driving and 29 mpg in the city, John Krafcik, Seoul-based Hyundai’s U.S. chief executive officer, told reporters yesterday at the Los Angeles Auto Show. That would be the best fuel-economy in the segment, topping Toyota’s Corolla, Honda’s Civic, Nissan Motor Co.’s Sentra and Ford Motor Co.’s new Focus small car, Hyundai said.

U.S. sales for South Korea’s largest automaker have risen 21 percent this year, aided by a 64 percent jump in sales of the midsize Sonata. Deliveries of Toyota’s Camry, the top-selling passenger car, have dropped 6.3 percent and the Honda Accord has fallen 3.4 percent.

Hyundai’s strategy of enhanced designs, higher fuel efficiency and often lower prices than competitors has helped the company’s U.S. sales this year top its previous record of 467,009, Krafcik told reporters yesterday in Los Angeles.

“Elantra’s styling will set it apart and the public is ready for something more interesting and dynamic than yesterday’s plain old vanilla,” said George Kang, an analyst for industry researcher “I think the public is more trusting of Hyundai now and will embrace the fact that its styling is cutting-edge.”

Fuel Economy

Hyundai fell 0.3 percent in Seoul to 188,500 won as of 9:53 a.m. The stock has gained 56 percent in 2010.

Pricing for the Elantra with a 1.8-liter engine and six-speed transmission ranges from $15,550 and tops out at $22,700 for Limited Premium model. With the Elantra and new Sonata hybrid due next year, Hyundai may lead the industry in 2011 in sales of vehicles that get at least 40 miles per gallon, Krafcik said.

“It really is our desire to set the trajectory for fuel economy improvement in the industry,” Krafcik said in Los Angeles. Hyundai this year said it planned to boost the efficiency of its fleet to an average of 50 mpg by 2025. That will happen mainly with improved gasoline engines, rather than with heavy reliance on electric-drive systems, he said.

Krafcik declined to give a sales goal for the new Elantra, saying the only target is to outsell the previous generation. U.S. sales of the car peaked in 2003 at 120,858 units, while Hyundai sold 110,519 Elantras in the first 10 months of 2010.

Hyundai’s U.S. sales unit is based in Fountain Valley, California.

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