Hyundai Azera Shines

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Azera Tackles The Best from Japanese Mainstream Brands at a Surprising Value
When Hyundai launches its new Azera (http://www.hyundaiazera.com) entry luxury sedan in Fall 2005 it could have a real winner on its hands. The Azera replaces the XG350 with a much more distinctively styled and believable car. Unlike its blandmobile predecessor, the Azera is distinctive. Maybe it’s not head-turning, but it is an excellent piece of work from a company that is now beginning to reach its stride.

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Value-Priced Luxury
Base priced at about $25,000 you can load an Azera up to about $30,000. That is well below cars that may be considered to be competitors (Hyundai thinks it will compete with the Toyota Avalon and the Nissan Maxima). Azera is fully equipped and features safety equipment usually optional on competitive models. Azera has eight airbags, ABS, active head restraints and electronic stability control standard.

Sales Volume Objective Ambitious

“OK, we have given you this very nice car at a very attractive price,” says Hyundai Motor Company management. “Now, Hyundai Motor America, you can sell twice as many.” This means that HMA is expected to sell well over 30,000 units of the Azera and HMC would not be disappointed if they hit 40,000 units. The value proposition is there, the car is pretty darn nice. They just may make 40,000 units.


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VehicleVoice Beauty Contests

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Every month VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) panel members give their reactions to the styling of eight to ten newly introduced cars or trucks and interesting concept vehicles. The Internet panel is shown photos of the vehicles without identification. Their badges are Photoshopped out so only the cogniscenti might really know what the vehlcle really is. At the end of the Beauty Contest the vehicle names and manufacturers are revealed.
Over the months, we have become pretty good at predicting what will juice up the panel members. Usually a really hot sports car will do the trick. The Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice were tops for “great styling” ratings in the months they were shown. Some interesting recent results show the Ford Fusion and Lincoln Zephyr being strongly rated for having “great styling”. This is an impressive result for mainstream sedans.


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Ford Fusion Surprises?

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Fusion Hot Out of the Blocks
Fusion is Ford’s new mid-size sedan and is a very respectable piece of work. It has distinctive styling, a good sized interior and a large trunk. This combination puts Fusion in the hunt to attract buyers of mid-size cars that have been unable to consider a Ford since the demise of the easily forgotten Ford Contour (and who can’t forget its predecessor – the Tempo). For the first time in years, Ford has a competitive mid-size entry worthy of consideration. The first full month of sales for the Ford Fusion was October, 2005. Fusion, right out of the blocks, looks like a surprise winner with slightly over 4,000 units sold.
In a departure from conventional mid-size car marketing, Ford says they are not going after buyers who would consider the high volume Japanese entries like Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. Instead, they think they can have a pretty healthy business selling to Mustang owners who are moving into a mid-size sedan after their fling with the most popular sporty coupe on the planet.


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Ford Gives Explorer Major Facelift

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After the all-new Fusion mid-size sedan, the most significant product in Ford’s 2006 lineup is the Explorer. Ford focused on three primary areas and revised nearly all systems for this heavy mid-cycle change. The program updated power, comfort, and safety.
Its all-new frame borrows engineering tips from the F-150, specifically the larger truck’s tube-through-tube design. This stiffer frame is the base that allows the overall safety and NVH improvements, improves ride and road feel, and should reduce long-term squeaks and rattles. Explorer’s 4.6L V8 is upgraded to three valves per cylinder and mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This combination improves power to the tune of an additional 53HP (to 292HP), while improving fuel economy, Ford says, by about ten percent. The six-speed auto performs smoothly and quietly on the road and extra power is nearly always appreciated. Revisions to the V6 result in 74% cleaner emissions, but no extra power.
Exterior changes include a redesigned front grille that clues you in to the trim level you’re seeing. Most models feature a grille with two openings; the larger upper opening holds four bars. The XLS grille is grey, while XLT and Limited get chrome grilles.


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Hyundai Writes a Check… Hyundai Assembly Plant in Alabama

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Hyundai Launches New Alabama Assembly Plant

May 19, 2005, Montgomery, Alabama: AutoPacific attended the opening celebrations for the new Hyundai assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama on May 19, 2005. This was a great, gala event, complete with a chartered Boeing 747 full of Hyundai executives, Korean press and government officials and featured remarks by no less than George H. W. “Big” Bush, 41st president of the United States! (And yes, the place was swarming with Secret Service, a SWAT Team and even a sniper team on the roof with a Barrett 50-caliber sniper rifle).

It is estimated that no less than 4,000 people were in attendance, including Hyundai and supplier employees. The 98-degree, 100-percent humidity day only dampened the event slightly.

The star of the show wasn’t the party, but rather the assembly plant itself and the commitment it represents.


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Lexus – Nissan Wins 2005 AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Top Brand – Most Wins

Lexus Wins AutoPacific 2005 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Top Brand – Nissan Has Most Wins Overall

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“Lexus’ win comes from an especially strong showing by its LS430 Premium Luxury Car and RX330 Luxury Sport Utility. Strong vehicle scores combined with real luxury-level customer handling at Lexus dealerships edges Lexus ahead of other luxury brands like Cadillac, Jaguar, Lincoln, BMW and Mercedes.”
While Lexus won the statistical battle, Nissan won the battle for the most entries winning Vehicle Satisfaction Awards. In an unprecedented performance, seven Nissan vehicles won VSAs. Often criticized in pure quality surveys where things like fit and finish, wind noise and squeaks and rattles are measured, Nissan products certainly satisfy their owners.
Nissan North America has seven winners this year, tops among the various corporations. Nissan sweeps the pickup categories with wins in both segments. The Nissan Titan takes the Full Size Pickup category and is the top-rated vehicle overall. Completing the pickup sweep is a win by the Frontier in the Compact Pickup category. Nissan Maxima is at the top of the Entry Luxury Car category and also the top-rated car, the Nissan Armada takes the Large SUV category for the second year in a row, Nissan Altima is the winner of the Premium Mid-Size Car category (tied with the new Buick LaCrosse), the Nissan Murano wins the Premium Mid-Size SUV category. The Nissan Quest is in a 3-way tie as the most satisfying Minivan.


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2005 Japanese Minivans Tie for AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Japanese Minivans Win AutoPacific 2005 Minivan Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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“In the first ever 3-way tie in AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award research, the three Japanese brand Minivans are in a dead heat. Owners of Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna rate the three Minivans so equally it is difficult to tell them apart. The differences in ratings between the three are usually too close to call. Toyota and Honda owners rate their Minivans ahead on brand reputation, the Nissan is rated more fun to drive and easier to get into and out of. Nissan’s distinctive interior styling rates more strongly among its owners than the more conventional interiors of the Sienna and Odyssey.”
“It’s remarkable that these three Minivans are so close in their owner ratings. They have become similar to Premium Mid-Size Cars where many people feel they have to look at the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima when shopping for a Mid-Size Car. In minivans, many people think they have to at least look at the three Japanese-brand Minivans before making a decision. These are vehicles you don’t have to explain to your neighbors when they show up in your driveway.”
“For 2005, at least, American brands are not in the hunt for a Minivan category win.”


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2005 Tucson & Element Win AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Hyundai Tucson and Honda Element Tie for AutoPacific 2005 Compact Sport Utility Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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“The larger stablemate to the Tucson – the Hyundai Santa Fe – has won (or tied) the VSA in its class for four of its five years on the market. In fact, Santa Fe owners were the first ever to rate a Korean brand vehicle tops in its category. With Santa Fe within a year of replacement, the Tucson continues Hyundai’s string of winning products. Tucson’s new style, new package, affordable pricing and outstanding warranty provide a combination that it difficult to beat.”
“Honda Element owners give the Element a tie with the new Tucson. Element styling may be the new king of funk, but its function wins the day. Element is easy to drive, easy to live with and highly functional. It may have been developed to be a rolling dorm room for twentysomethings, but the Xers and Boomers who are buying it think it is great.”

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2005 Equinox & Santa Fe Tie For AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Chevrolet Equinox and Hyundai Santa Fe Tie for AutoPacific 2005 Standard Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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“Owners of the all-new Equinox rate their vehicle at the top of its category. We knew Equinox was something special when it was first shown at the North American International Auto Show. These results confirm our initial impression. A truly international product, Equinox is assembled in Canada and uses a V6 engine made in China. Nothing wrong with that combination according to its owners.”
“The Hyundai Santa Fe continues its string of category-leading performances. Santa Fe has won or tied in its category for four of the five years it has been on the market. This is a testament to Santa Fe’s strong combination of product competence, value and warranty. Santa Fe satisfies its owners and continues to help Hyundai build its brand image in the United States.”


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2005 Nissan Murano Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

Nissan Murano Wins 2005 Premium Mid-Size Sport Utility Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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“Murano is the most satisfying Premium Mid-Size SUV for 2005. Murano’s distinctive styling and standard CVT clearly differentiate it from other vehicles in its class. Many would call it a crossover vehicle. It is based on a front wheel drive car platform, but that does not detract from the satisfaction Murano provides its owners. In 2003, in its first year on the market, Murano won honorable mention in AutoPacific’s VSA research. No honorable mention in 2005, Murano wins hands down.”

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