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Hyundai Equus headed for U.S. market, targets Lexus LS sedan

Mon, 29 Jun 2009

Hyundai plans to bring its Equus luxury sedan to the United States next July.

About 100 units of the Equus are being evaluated this summer by U.S. dealers and consumers. A company source who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Equus will attempt to compete with the Lexus LS 460, which starts at $64,700 including shipping.

"We plan to keep the price under $60,000," said the Hyundai insider.

A loaded Genesis sedan stickers for around $43,000, so there is plenty of space above for an attractively priced luxury car without competing head-on with a well-equipped Mercedes E-class or BMW 5-series.

The Equus debuted in South Korea in 1999. A second-generation model went on sale there in March at a base price of about $50,000. It is Hyundai's most upscale vehicle, with a top price of around $81,000.

The rear-wheel-drive car is based on the Genesis platform. At 203.1 inches, the Equus is 7.2 inches longer than the Genesis and powered by the same 3.8-liter V6 and 4.6-liter V8 engines. Sources say Hyundai will bring only the V8 model here.

Rick Case, who owns six Hyundai dealerships, says Hyundai Motor America President John Krafcik showed him a V8-powered Equus last month. Case says it has amenities such as tilting rear seats, massagers and TV screens in the rear seats.

"It's an incredible car," he said. "It won't be big volume for us. It will be a halo car for the brand."

Scott Fink, of New Port Richey, Fla., chairman of Hyundai's dealer council, thinks the Equus will do better than the Volkswagen Phaeton, a luxury sedan VW sold here in the 2004-06 model years. Phaeton prices ranged from about $65,000 to $100,000.

"We've established a baseline with the success of our Genesis," Fink says. "If the price is in the 50s or high 40s and we can keep the residuals on par with Genesis, we might have something."

Rick Kranz contributed to this report

By Kathy Jackson- Automotive News