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Practice Makes Perfect

 

Before the public kicks the tires of the redesigned 2011 Sonata and takes the car out for a road test, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama employees trained and trained to build the new vehicle.

Because the body is different than the previous model, adjustments were made to the robotics that perform the welding. Modifications were also made in the paint shop to make sure all the new nooks and crannies were covered.

Hyundai spokesman Robert Burns said that employees on the assembly line were doing test builds, which started in November. They were building one or two vehicles at a time to get used to the changes and as Burns said “to make sure the fit is right and functions properly.”

Some of the key changes were the components that suppliers made.

Burns said that Hyundai uses a Standard Work Instruction Sheet (SWIS) “for every step in building the car.” He said that there was a new SWIS for every job that changed.

“Just prior to full production, they spent more time on the line discussing the (changes) because a lot of team members get the SWIS ahead of time so they can read through the sequence,” Burns said.

Building a redesigned vehicle has created a stir at the manufacturing facility, Burns said. “The morale boost has been huge. Seeing this whole new design – a new direction for the Hyundai brand has really got our team members psyched up.

“People that I’ve seen on the floor are going, ‘Whoa, as soon as I’m ready to buy a car, look out’ or ‘I’m going to trade my other one that I got in 2006 or 2007 – this is such a sharp-looking vehicle.’ ”

-- David Zaslawsky

A Chorus of Praise for the New Sonata

Everybody’s talking about Hyundai’s redesigned 2011 Model

February 2010

by David Zaslawsky

The code name for the sixth-generation Sonata was YF.

A production manager at Hyundai’s plant in Montgomery told the employees that YF stood for “Your Future.” It also stood for the company’s future. A lot is riding on the South Korean automaker’s all-new 2011 Sonata.

“This vehicle is a real step change for the Hyundai brand in the very competitive four-door sedan segment in the U.S. automotive industry,” said Robert Burns, spokesman for Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama.

“It really moves away from what I like to call ‘your normal family sedan-looking vehicle.’ This transition – this change in design direction – is really going to set the future for the Hyundai brand in this plant continuing to be successful.”

When the 2011 Sonata was launched last year in South Korea, Hyundai’s Vice Chairman Euisan Chung said, “The Sonata will set a new standard for world class mid-size sedans with state-of-the-art technology, superior build quality and emotional design. The new Sonata will raise Hyundai’s brand values.”

Hyundai has invested four years and according to some reports $370 million developing the next generation Sonata and now comes an aggressive marketing campaign with ads during the Super Bowl.

The Sonata has been the company’s top-selling vehicle for five straight years in the U.S. and during the span has accounted anywhere from 25 percent to 36 percent of all Hyundai vehicles sold in each of those years.

“The Sonata certainly has done respectably (in the family sedan category) over the last five years, but now it’s transcending to a sportier look,” Burns said. “Some automotive analysts have said that it kind of has a coupe feel to it, though it is a four-door sedan. We think it’s going to broaden the appeal of the vehicle.”

More than 650,000 Sonatas have been sold during the past five years. With a redesigned vehicle, Hyundai expects 2010 to be a banner year.

“We do not give sales projections, but with any new model we do expect a sales increase,” Miles Johnson, manager of product public relations for Hyundai Motor America, wrote in an e-mail.

The all-time annual sales record for Sonata was 149,513 vehicles in 2006.

Now, as Burns points out, the company hopes to attract new buyers – younger buyers. Burns said that with the previous Sonata models the target audience was “in the 40 to 55 range,” but now the company is looking to entice the 30-somethings to the showrooms.

“A person in their 30s (might say) that’s a pretty, stylish car because of the younger, hip styling,” Burns said. “Because of the under $20,000 price point of the base model that was announced in L.A., we feel like that might still be a very nice car for a young family.”

The car has undergone a dramatic change, especially under the hood, where the 2011 Sonata will have four-cylinder engines with a gasoline direct-injection fuel system. That will give the vehicle an estimated 23 mpg city and 35 mpg highway. The engine has a preliminary horsepower rating of 198. The SE model’s engine will have 200 horsepower.

A turbo version of the engine is expected to be available by the third quarter this year, according to Burns, and by the end of the year, there will also be a hybrid model.

“This is really significant when you’re eliminating the V-6 because you’re getting nearly the horsepower that is equivalent to a V-6,” Burns said.

The new-look exterior is what Hyundai officials call “fluidic sculpture.” The company describes its new design as more sophisticated with “dynamic angles.” There is more sculpting on the body panels and more curvatures.

The Limited model features heated front and back seats as well as leather interior. A navigation package is an option that offers a high-resolution, touch-screen display navigation system, high-definition radio technology, rear backup camera and Infinity premium sound system.

“It has all those bells and whistles and techno gadgets that people may want – Bluetooth technology and voice activation on any of the components on that system,” Burns said. “There are enough varieties of options that can satisfy just about any consumer’s taste.”

The 2011 Sonata has been receiving rave reviews from the various automotive online sites. On one blog site, a participant wrote that “Lexus had better look in the rearview mirror. Hyundai is getting real close!”

Another participant wrote that he is a three-time Toyota owner who is putting “Hyundai at the top of the list for my next vehicle purchase.”

Readers at Edmunds’ CarSpace Forums are using words such as “sharp, distinctive, aggressive and radical” to describe the 2011 Sonata. Some of the bloggers are talking about preferring the new Sonata over Camry and Accord.

That’s exactly what Hyundai wants to hear.

“We just think we are going to draw in so many more potential customers to the brand because Hyundai had a great year in ’09 in the sense of being able to sustain itself during a difficult time,” Burns said. “We feel like we will bring even more consumers to the fold.”

Hyundai brought new buyers to the fold with its Genesis sedan and Genesis coupe. Burns said the Genesis helped generate increased interest in the brand.

“People (saw) that we can build a high-quality car at a good price point in this segment (luxury sedan and sport coupe),” Burns said. “And now with the new 2011 Sonata – wow – another design that hopefully captures the consumer’s imagination and desire to purchase the car.

“That just elevates us one more time where we truly begin to compete with the other larger-volume sedan manufacturers in the U.S.”