MONTE CARLO, France - Europeans will buy 40,000 Hyundai Atos minis this year, a fourth of the total production, predicts the company.
Lee Hyoung-keun, director of Hyundai Motor's international marketing support group, said the Atos will help raise Hyundai's total sales in Europe to 180,000, up from 163,000 in 1997.
Lee said the projected increase is based on a new product attracting new customers, not low prices based on a devalued won. He said Hyundai began hedging against a crash for the won three years ago.
'We don't intend to dump. We want steady growth in the market,' said Lee at the European press launch of the new Atos here. 'We have no plans to dramatically increase sales in our export markets. That would be a dangerous policy for the future.'
Europe is important in Hyundai's growth plan. Over the next two years, Hyundai plans to introduce a new sub-luxury car, diesel engines in several segments, and a sub-compact minivan.
If it achieves its goals, the Atos will be Hyundai's second-biggest volume car in Europe, after the Lantra.
Lee said the two top markets are likely to be France and Italy. The small-car segments in France account for 40 percent of total sales, and in Italy small cars account for 54 percent.
In the UK, 'We will be aiming at the mature buyer with a car that has lots of up-market specifications,' said Hyundai UK Marketing Director Ken Lee. 'The advertising slogan will be 'Small enough for you - big enough for your family.''
The new mini will be priced to compete against the Skoda Felicia, Renault Twingo and Ford Ka, said Lee, in the $11,000-$13,000 range.
It will be offered in most markets at two trim and equipment specification levels, but with no choice of engines. A clutchless transmission option developed by Valeo costs about $400 extra. A full automatic adds around $800.
The Atos, together with the Atos Electric Vehicle, debuted at the Frankfurt auto show last September. It was developed with help from Hyundai's European design center in Frankfurt.
Development time was 23 months from the design freeze in October 1995 to mass-production for the Korean market in September 1997. Hyundai says total project expenditure was $155 million.