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Tuesday, May 20, 2003

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Hyundai to replace Zip Plus with the new Santro Xing

S. Muralidhar


THE country's largest selling compact passenger car model — the Hyundai Santro — is set to get another makeover. Starting later this month, Hyundai Motor India (HMI) is expected to withdraw the Zip Plus version of the Santro and replace it with the car's new European variant.

Industry sources said that the new version to be called Santro Xing, will feature completely redesigned headlamp and taillamp clusters, a thicker, more pleasing front grille, plusher upholstery and a revamped boot.

This will be second major change that the Santro will be put through after the Santro Zip Plus was introduced last year in response to customer feedback for a peppier engine on the popular small car. This time around, HMI is expected to retain the engine, but the car has instead got a cosmetic makeover, including changes to the panels and bodywork, the sources added.

While HMI officials were not available for comment, industry sources pointed out that the strategy to introduce a new Santro variant was partly in response to give the car a new, fresh look before product fatigue sets in amongst potential buyers of the car.

Hyundai has been extremely responsive to this possibility in every one of the product segments that the company is present in, as also to the introduction of competing products.

Further, the changeover to the European version of the Santro, which is currently called the Atoz Prime in those markets, will enable the Indian subsidiary of Hyundai Motor, Korea to integrate its operations with the company's global operations.

This would be a key plus for HMI since the Chennai plant has been selected as the singular source for the company's global requirements of the Santro and its variants.

As a result of the proposed changes to the Santro, the build quality and components for the car are expected to match with its global cousins. Sources said that the replacement of the Santro's current variant with the new one will be done in a phased manner and that it might start with two of the top end trim levels of the current form of the Santro.

The new Santro Xing will be launched later this month and the prices are expected to be marginally higher than the existing prices.

Since HMI hiked the prices of the Santro recently in response to higher input costs, the increase due to the model change will be comparatively lesser.

Industry sources also added that the new Santro Xing and its price segmentation will enable Hyundai to better categorise its forthcoming products in the C-segment and a possible product in the cusp between the B and C segments.

In preparation for the launch of the new Santro, HMI has also launched a teaser ad campaign featuring popular Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan.

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