Sonata Grows in PopularityThe Hyundai Sonata has become a hit in a fiercely competitive segment for new- and used-car dealers.
Automakers made huge efforts to crack into the small sedan category, which is dominated by the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. The latest example is General Motor Corp.'s much-hyped new version of the Chevrolet Malibu.
Hyundai launched the new Sonata last year and many analysts said they did the best job so far of creating a true Camry competitor.
According to AutoData Corp., Hyundai sold 145,568 Sonatas in 2007, down 2.6 percent from 2006 but still a strong performance.
"They've done a great job battling the notion that it's not as good a vehicle as a Toyota Camry or a Honda, not just the vehicle, but the name brand," said Joe Spina, senior remarketing manager for Edmunds.com. "They started to get great reviews and consumers are starting to notice."
The vehicle's popularity as a used car also increased. The Sonata spent much of 2007 among AuctionNet's Top 10 units sold.
A recent online review said the "2002-2005 Sonata was solid proof that Hyundai could build a solid, well- appointed and attractive automobile to hold its own among a horde of mid-size competitors."
Spina said increased quality, on top of the 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, has made the Sonata almost on par with the competition.
One major obstacle for Hyundai products in the used-car market has been the subpar certified pre-owned program. But the manufacturer recently relaunched its CPO program with a five-year/ 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
According to John Sullivan, sales manager at Fairfax Hyundai in Fairfax, Va., the new CPO program has helped the Sonata compete in the used-car market.
"It is definitely competing with the Honda Accord a lot better than it was," he said. "It feels heavier, and it's a little roomier."
By David Piestrzynski
Used Car News Staff Writer