South Korean automaker Hyundai, which has been working to shed its bargain-brand image and emerge from the shadows of Japan's biggest brands, now commands higher prices than they do in the hot compact-car segment.
An analysis of transaction prices -- what people actually paid for new cars -- shows Hyundai not only has pulled ahead of Toyota and Honda, the compact segment leaders, but is closing the gap in midsize sedans. Those are key product segments for Hyundai, generating more than half its sales last year.
The analysis by Edmunds.com for USA TODAY shows buyers in 2011 paid an average $19,711 for a Hyundai Elantra compact, about $1,500 more than for a Toyota Corolla and $300 above a Honda Civic. At the same time, the redesigned Elantra's sales rose 40.5% last year from 2010, Autodata reports.
Meanwhile, Hyundai's Sonata midsize sedan has been closing on Honda's Accord and Toyota's Camry in the past decade. U.S. buyers paid 33% more for a Sonata last year than in 2002, while they paid 13% more for an Accord over the same period and 10% more for a Camry.
The average paid for a Sonata last year was $23,259, about $860 below Accord and $500 below Camry. As recently as five years ago, Sonata lagged them by more than $2,000.
The analysis shows Hyundai has not only moved beyond being written off by all but bargain seekers because of its reputation for questionable quality and odd styling, but now even has some products for which people will pay more.
"They really changed people's minds. It's a turning point for the brand," says Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com analyst. "But it's a long process that's not over yet."
Hyundai isn't afraid to raise sticker prices, either. Last week it priced its redone Azera full-size sedan at $32,875 to start, up about $6,000 from its predecessor. Though the new one has more standard features, that still puts it well above the $26,350 base for a Ford Taurus and near Toyota Avalon's $33,955.
Heading upmarket has risks, Caldwell says. By letting go of its image as a value brand, Hyundai will face higher expectations.
Hyundai's U.S. CEO John Krafcik disputes that his brand is losing its value orientation. "Our value has never been higher," he says. And he says there are many shoppers yet to be won over. "We're in the middle of a very long journey."
Most Popular Stories
- SEO Traffic Lab Celebrate Wins at Digital Marketing Event 'Internet World 2013' in London
- Social Media Initiatives Should Follow Customers' Lead
- Apple CEO: Offshore Units Not a 'Tax Gimmick'
- U.S. Senate Accuses Apple of Large-scale Tax Avoidance
- UTEP Water Recycling Project Wins Venture Titles
- Marketo Makes a Mint in IPO: Stock Shoots Up More than 50 Percent
- Bieber Booed at Billboard Awards
- Crude Oil Up, Gasoline Down
- Austin Startup Compare Metrics Raises $3.5 Million for Expansion
- Why So Many Top 'Car Guys' Are Actually Women