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Hyundai Grows Bolder with New Flagship

Posted by: Moon Ihlwan on February 17, 2009


South Korea’s Hyundai Motor was bold enough when it unveiled its first rear-wheel-drive premium sedan, the Genesis, just over a year ago. It let journalist drive the Genesis, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Classes, suggesting that the Korean car’s power and performance match those of the luxury German cars.

On Feb. 17, it became even more audacious. It parked its new flagship sedan, called the Equus, alongside Mercedes-Benz S500 and Lexus 460L and asked journalists to compare everything from cornering and comforts to styling. “It’s an import fighter capable of competing on an equal footing with the world’s most luxurious car,” says Hyundai Executive Vice President Lee Bong Hwan who developed the new Equus, which will come standard with a 3.8-liter V6 engine that makes 290 horsepower. A 4.6-liter V8 generating 366 horsepower is optional.

The Equus is an upgrade from the Genesis. They share the same power train but the Equus is larger and equipped with better safety features and conveniences, including lane departure warning system, heated steering wheel, a massage system, and what it calls pre-safety system that automatically applies the brakes, triggers a flashing warning light on a display panel, an audible alert and a vibration in the seatbelt harness. “Genesis showed the world what a great car we could build, but Equus improves on the Genesis in every measurable way,” crows Hyundai Chief Technology Officer Lee Hyun Soon. The Genesis won the prestigious North American Car of the Year award at this year’s Detroit Auto Show.

The Equus, however, won’t be sold in North America anytime soon. CTO Lee has said the Equus will debut in the U.S. in the future but company officials make clear it won’t be in the next two years. The first-generation Equus, which was introduced in 1999, was sold in China and the Middle East as the Centennial — but less than 400 units annually in those markets. The new Equus, a completely different vehicle from its predecessor, will be launched in Korea next month and in the second half of this year in China. Pricing has yet to be fixed.

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BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.

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