Hyundai to unveil a sporty Elantra

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Hyundai Motor America moves into brand extensions this week with the launch of the all-new 2001 Elantra GT.

The sporty, five-door version of Hyundai's best-selling model offers more functionality than a small sedan, said Paul Sellers, marketing-communications director at the South Korean car importer. "The marketplace is seeking out the utilitarian virtues of automobiles, and as such, five doors are gaining in popularity." He cited as examples Subaru of America's Outback sport utility sedan, which arrived in 1998 as a 1999 model, and Mazda North American Operations' newly launched Protege 5 hatchback wagon.

The campaign for the Elantra GT breaks today on national network and cable TV, but the GT's estimated $10 million ad budget this year includes spot TV and outdoor in select markets. Print will run in August issues of magazines.

Cordiant Communications Group's Bates USA West, Irvine, Calif., handles the account, which last year totaled $145 million in measured media, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. Elantra received $12 million of that spending.

The Elantra GT isn't expected to be a high-volume model. Hyundai projected the car will account for between 15% to 20% of all Elantra sales this year, or about 20,000 units. Mr. Sellers said the only options offered are a sunroof and anti-lock brakes, which raises the suggested base price of $13,999 to the mid-$14,000 range. But the base model comes with standard interior leather, a CD player and alloy wheels.

The fun-to-drive aspects of the car and its leather interior are highlighted in the TV spot. It shows a boss catching his 20-something male employees horsing around with his leather chair after working late. The boss later admires the GT, which belongs to one of his scolded charges. "Excuse me, that's my leather chair," the underling tells his boss.

Mike Robertson, vice chairman of Bates USA West who oversees Hyundai creative, said the agency wanted the TV ads to show the "cool stuff" in the car in a fun way. Research of the commercial revealed "the consumers' groups translated the after-hours fun to the car," he said.

Still, the car marketer's promise of "America's best-selling warranty" is the glue holding the campaign together, as it does for all Hyundai's vehicles, Mr. Robertson added. The print execution touts the car's looks. It shows the car on a white background and the copy under the car explains it's parked on the roadside during a meteor shower. "Funny how some things just stand out," the headline said.

Hyundai has been increasing its U.S. sales at a breathtaking pace. Its May sales were projected to be close to the brand's monthly record of 30,000 units, a spokesman said last week (actual sales were to be released after press time). In the first four months of 2001, the automaker sold 100,906 vehicles, a 32% jump from the 76,446 units it sold the same period a year ago, according to Automotive News.

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