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Diesel Sonata rollout by year-end

Chennai, March 13: Hyundai Motor India plans to introduce the diesel version of the Sonata by the end of this year ' the first diesel model in the executive cars segment.

'We will launch the diesel Sonata by the end of the year and the successor model of the Accent in September,' said H.S. Lheem, managing director of Hyundai Motor India.

'From next year, we will introduce at least two new models annually in the Indian market,' Lheem said.

The company today rolled out its one millionth car at its plant in Irrungattukottai near Chennai.

'The first one million cars were rolled out in eight years. We expect the next million cars to roll out in two-and- a-half years,' said B.V.R. Subbu, president of Hyundai Motor India.

'We plan to make our Indian operations the export hub of compact cars for our markets in 60 countries. While we are now focusing on the Santro and the Accent, we will add another model to our export list,' Lheem said.

Hyundai is the largest exporter of passenger cars in the country with exports of over Rs 1,800 crore, which constitute over 71 per cent of total car exports from the country.

The combined domestic sales of the company have increased by 17.26 per cent to 2,52,851 cars for the year 2005.

The company plans to enhance its production capacity to 6 lakh cars annually by 2007. It is setting up a second plant with a capacity of 3 lakh units at an investment of $500 million, which will be operational by 2007.

Hyundai has also started the third production shift at the existing plant a week back to ramp up production to 3 lakh cars from the current 2.8 lakh. Of this, the company expects to sell 2 lakh cars in the domestic market and export the rest.

'With the new plant, we plan to have an equal ratio between sales in the domestic and export markets,' said Lheem.

'We have also asked our Korean vendor suppliers to set up facilities in the country and eight to nine of these suppliers will set up shop here at a total investment of $100 million,' he added.

Hyundai India currently contributes around 10 per cent of the group's total production of 2.8 million cars per year. With the increased production capacity, the contribution of the Indian unit will go up to 15 per cent.

At present, Hyundai markets 31 variants of passenger cars in six segments. Apart from the expansion in production capacity, Hyundai plans to expand its dealer network from 157 to 200 in the current year and the service network to over 1000.

The company recently announced its plans to enter the used car business by the year-end through a subsidiary that will also offer customers an option to upgrade their models.

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