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Hyundai Motor launches Genesis luxury car into high end market

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South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. launched its new rear-wheel drive Genesis luxury sedan Tuesday, setting a goal of selling 55,000 of the vehicles this year.

Hyundai Motor said in a statement it invested 500 billion won (US$533 million) to develop the car over the past four years. It sees the Genesis as a competitor to luxury models such as Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus and similar European cars by the likes of BMW AG and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz.

The car ``symbolizes our determination to enter the highly competitive arena of luxury cars now dominated by the Europeans,'' Hyundai chairman and CEO Chung Mong-koo said in the statement.

``Genesis will consolidate our position as the leader of the Korean auto industry and will pave the way forward for our leap into the global market,'' he said.

Hyundai said it aims to sell 35,000 of the cars in South Korea and another 20,000 overseas in 2008. It is targeting exports of 45,000 in 2009, the statement said.

Hyundai plans to begin shipping the high-end sedan to the U.S. in June and also plans to sell it in China during the first half of the year.

Stephen Ahn, an industry analyst at Woori Investment & Securities Co., said Hyundai is treading the path of Japanese automakers such as Toyota, Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co., which launched luxury brands to transcend earlier reputations as solid makers of quality vehicles.

``I think Genesis could be the next catalyst for brand-value growth'' for Hyundai, said Ahn, who predicted the company will rack up sales of about 50,000 for the vehicle this year.

The Genesis has a six-speed automatic transmission and options for a 3.3-liter, a 3.8-liter or a 4.6-litre engine.

It sells for between 40.5 million won ($43,142) and 52.8 million won ($56,240) in South Korea.

Depending on engine size and other options, the most expensive Genesis in the U.S. would cost under $40,000, Oles Gadacz, Hyundai's chief global spokesman, said last month.

The company announced last week that its global vehicle sales this year would increase nearly 20 per cent to 3.11 million on expanded overseas production and stronger marketing.

Hyundai, along with affiliate Kia Motors Corp., is the world's sixth-largest automaker and has ambitions to crack the top five by 2010.

Both companies have aggressively moved overseas in recent years by building new plants.

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Hyundai Motor launches Genesis luxury car into high end market
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