SEOUL -- Hyundai Motor Co. is counting on the redesigned Sonata to reverse a fall in sales of a model struggling to stand out in a shrinking midsize sedan segment.
The new Sonata will take on Toyota Motor Corp.'s remodeled Camry in the United States, where cars have been losing favor to SUVs and crossovers amid relatively low fuel prices.
The stylish design and affordable price of the previous-generation Sonata, launched in 2009, propelled Hyundai Motor to its biggest-ever share of the U.S. market, and helped it escape an industry-wide downturn largely unscathed.
But its curvy styling received mixed reviews in the conservative home market of South Korea, prompting the automaker to tone it down in 2014.
With the latest version, Hyundai Motor has changed the sheet metal in an unusual move for a midcycle refresh. It has also given it a more sporty look with a curvy hood and a bigger grille. Lee said Hyundai's next-generation Sonata will take design cues from this redesigned version.
Hyundai is working on next-generation cars with "a different flair" for marketing from 2019, Luc Donckerwolke, senior vice president for design, previously told Reuters.
In the U.S., sales of midsize sedans fell 2.1 percent in 2016 and the segment is off another 20 percent so far this year. U.S. deliveries of the Sonata slipped 1.7 percent last year and have dropped 31 percent in the first two months of 2017.