Three midsize Korean sedans may soon join the auto industry’s ongoing exodus from the passenger car side of the market, according to several reports.
As first reported by South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo, the Hyundai Motor Group is planning to drop the Hyundai Sonata, as well as the Stinger and K5 models sold by the sibling Kia brand — though officials from the two brands stressed the three models remain critical parts of their product offerings.
The reports, if proved accurate, would mark the biggest pullback by the Korean carmaker from the passenger car segment. But it would be in line with what is happening more broadly within the auto industry. Automakers have culled a variety of once-popular sedans, coupes, hatchbacks and sports cars in recent years, as motorists by the millions switch to SUVs, CUVs, pickups and other light trucks.
Familiar sedans fade away
Among the products that have vanished during the last several years: the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CT6. Toyota will halt production of the Avalon at the end of the 2022 model year.
And, according to the Chosun Ilbo and other reports, at least three Hyundai Motor Group models will join the list, including the Sonata, Stinger and K5.
“Under Executive Chairman Euisun Chung, there seems to be a willingness to do away with sentimentally iconic nameplates as the automaker forges ahead toward the future,” Ed Kim, president and chief analyst at AutoPacific, told Automotive News.
Sonata sales slump
The Sonata was once one of the most critical models for Hyundai, especially in the U.S., but sales have dropped from 213,303 in 2015 to just 76,997 last year. For the first four months of 2022, Americans have purchased just 9,806 Sonatas — less than were sold in April of 2021.
And that’s despite going through a complete makeover for the 2020 model year, as well as the addition of a sportier N-Line version last year.
Kia is having a bit more luck in the market with the K5, the redesigned and renamed version of the old Kia Optima. The latest version of the sedan generated 92,326 sales in the U.S. last year. But demand tumbled 42% in April, and is down 22% for the first four months of this year. Overall, Kia sales are down 8% for the year to date.
As for Stinger, the automaker sold 4,002 through the end of April — a 10% year-over-year increase — but April sales were down 25%.
The Chosun Ilbo did not say when each of the three models specifically will be dropped, and some sources said they could remain in production for several years.
Hyundai, Kia dismiss reports
But the two brands dismissed reports that the three models are set to end their run.
“Sonata remains and will continue to be an important part of Hyundai’s product line-up,” the automaker said in a statement provided to TheDetroitBureau.com.
As for Kia, spokesman James Bell said “Stinger remains an important part of Kia’s award-winning line-up of vehicles and a powerful piece of our overall brand transformation.”
A Kia insider, meanwhile, questioned why the K5 was on the list and suggested that might simply be because it shares the same underpinnings as the Hyundai Sonata.
Midsize sedan market continues shrinking
All three of the models included in the Korean news report fall into the midsize category. It has been hard hit by the shift to utility vehicles which now compromise the majority of American sales. Only 926,112 midsize sedans were sold in the U.S. last year, a 14% decline from the pandemic-weakened 2020. And demand dropped another 19% during the first quarter of this year.
The Hyundai brand has already trimmed back its passenger car portfolio, albeit slightly. It recently dropped all but the top performance versions of the Veloster hatchback.
With SUVs and CUVs continuing to gain ground, industry analysts stress that even more passenger car models could be on the chopping block during the next several years.