Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hyundai: Sonata and Other Hybrids Are Here to Stay

Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

Ten years late to the market, Hyundai is ready to make hybrids a critical part of its lineup. The popular Sonata Hybrid will be priced to sell.

Hyundai took the wraps off its first hybrid, the Sonata Hybrid, last week at the New York Auto Show. As we reported, the company is taking direct aim at competitors in the mid-size hybrid sedan market. The Sonata could match or beat the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Toyota Camry Hybrid on fuel economy�and undercut them on price by a couple thousand dollars. Moreover, Hyundai believes they�"ve produced the best riding hybrid so far. The Sonata Hybrid goes on sale in December.

To learn more, we spoke with Michael Deitz, the product manager for the Sonata line. We started by talking about the design of the hybrid Sonata, which is expected to match the Toyota Prius for aerodynamics, by using sculpted front and rear bumper fascias, an alloy wheel design that�"s filled in, and full cover underbody.

Deitz: The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid will be highly differentiated from the conventional version. When a perspective buyer sees this car on the road, they�"ll say that it looks like a Sonata, but there�"s something different about it. They�"ll immediate know it�"s a hybrid.

The grille, which looks very different, is actually functional, because there are air dampers behind there so that when you�"re at low speed, they�"re open to provide more air flow. Then, as you increase your speed, they close (for better aerodynamics). We cut the side of the rear bumper. It�"s almost like it�"s been sliced. We�"re projecting that we�"re going to have a 0.25 drag coefficient. For a substantially larger vehicle [than the Toyota Prius], there�"s a lot more car for this coefficient of drag.

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