By Aditi Shah and Riddhima Talwani
NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Hyundai Motor Co on Monday launched a small sport-utility vehicle (SUV) in India aimed at young car buyers, a move analysts said is an attempt to reclaim share from rivals that have gained ground with new car models.
The Exter SUV will be priced from 599,900 rupees ($7,300) for the entry-level model to 999,900 rupees for the top-end variant, going head-on against domestic rival Tata Motors (NYSE:TTM)’ Punch SUV.
The vehicle will plug a gap for Hyundai in the entry-level SUV segment and widen its portfolio in India – a market which is of “strategic significance” for the South Korean carmaker, its country CEO Unsoo Kim said during the launch.
“With the launch of Exter, Hyundai Motor India has become a full range SUV manufacturer,” Kim said, adding it had spent 9.5 billion rupees on developing the car.
India’s importance for Hyundai, the world’s third-largest automaker by sales with its affiliate Kia Corp, is increasing as it scales back its presence in China and was forced to exit Russia.
Car buyers in India are flocking to SUVs, driving up sales to record levels in the post-COVID buying boom. Hyundai’s rival Maruti Suzuki last week launched a premium seven-seater to woo upmarket buyers.
The Exter is equipped with features such as a voice-enabled electric sunroof, dashboard camera to take selfies, and wireless smartphone charger, often seen in bigger car models.
Hyundai has in recent years launched large and mid-size SUVs like the Alcazar and Creta, sending its sales in India to a record high of more than 567,000 units last fiscal year.
Still, its market share fell below 15% from a 2019-2020 peak of 17.5%, industry data showed, with rivals Tata and Mahindra & Mahindra speeding ahead with new launches.
The Exter could help it reclaim some lost share, said Ravi Bhatia, president for India at automotive consultancy JATO Dynamics.
“Any new launch will bring buyers to the showroom,” Bhatia said, adding that Hyundai will need to ensure the Exter does not cannibalise sales of its other small, entry-level cars.
“To really boost its share, Hyundai needs a product strategy that includes cars in higher segments as well, which is where the market is growing,” said Bhatia.