Chop-Chop: Hyundai Sonata Will Go Under the Knife, Get More Distinctive

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Despite being launched at last year’s New York Auto Show, Hyundai has decided on giving the Sonata a makeover because its more conservative looks didn’t gel with customers.

The previous Sonata, which ran from 2010 to mid-2014 in the US, had a more aggressive exterior design based on the company’s “fluidic sculpture” design language. It was also Hyundai’s first model to sell more than 200,000 units in a year in the US.

Unfortunately, its successor toned down that looks quite a bit, resulting in a disappointing 6.5 percent 2014 sales increase over 2013. Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski told WardsAuto the new mid-size sedan has gone down well with brand loyalists but failed in the conquest buyers’ front, the one the old model had nailed down.

“I told the story to our parent company, of driving the old Sonata home and people rolling down their windows at stop signs, following me, asking ‘What is that? Where can I get it?’””, Zuchowski said. “That was free advertising, right? People would seek us out because we look different and we don’t get that now.”

Hyundai probably thought that the previous-gen Sonata had established the nameplate enough to be compared to the segments best-sellers, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, which also have conservative looks.

Apparently, that was a mistake and dealers had to throw in larger than expected incentives to move the 2015 Sonata out of their showrooms.

Even so, the redesign won’t happen before the ’17 or ’18 model year, when the mid-cycle facelift was already scheduled: “It’s hard to get anything done sooner than mid-cycle with the tooling involved”, said Zuchowski. He added that Hyundai “knows exactly what we want to do. The more important thing to understand is we always need to keep our styling edge. We can’t let ourselves get closer to the pack.”

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