Hyundai India to boost exports with new car model

NEW DELHI, May 22 (Reuters) - Hyundai Motor India Ltd, the country's second-largest carmaker, launched a new-look version of its Santro compact car on Thursday and said the model will help more than triple exports this financial year.

The wholly owned subsidiary of South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co said the new Santro Xing hatchback will be made only in India to service export markets in Europe and other countries where it will replace the Santro Zip Plus.

The Santro Zip Plus is made both in India and South Korea.

"We expect to export more than 30,000 cars this fiscal" to March 2004, B.V.R. Subbu, Hyundai India's president, told a news conference, adding India had become Hyundai's small car global export hub.

Subbu said Hyundai expected sales in 2003/04, including exports, to total 150,000 units. It sold 112,502 cars in the past year to March, which included exports of 8,966 units.

The new compact model will also help Hyundai compete better in the cut-throat local market.

The low-end version of the 1.1-litre Santro Xing carries a showroom price tag of 329,721 rupees ($7,030) while the most expensive automatic model is priced at 430,556 rupees.

The prices are identical to the older Santro and Hyundai expects most customers to prefer the redesigned compact. Subbu said the company spent 1.5 billion rupees in new equipment for the Santro Xing.

The compact car segment made up 55.3 percent of India's new car sales in 2002/03 and has been the industry's fastest growing but also the most competitive. New model launches have been frequent in the segment and are crucial for its success.

Hyundai, in India since October 1998, makes the Santro hatchback, the Accent and Sonata sedans at its $700 million car plant on the outskirts of Madras. It had a 19.1 percent share of the domestic car market in 2002/03.

Its main competitors in the Indian market include top-ranked Maruti Udyog, Suzuki Motor Corp's Indian unit, local firm Tata Engineering and Locomotive Co and Fiat's Indian subsidiary.

A Hyundai official said the company will complete a capacity expansion to 150,000 units a year by July and will spend $200 million to raise it to 250,000 units by mid-2004.

Hyundai is also aiming to increase the number of its service outlets to 1,000 by tying up with the country's oil retailer, Indian Oil Corp Ltd from about 335 now. ($1 = 46.9 rupees)