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Sticker Shifts Driving Hyundai-Toyota Rivalry

Times Staff Writer

South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. has long competed in the U.S. as a low-cost alternative to the Japanese. The problem is that mighty Toyota Motor Corp. is starting to undercut Hyundai on price.

Consider their two rival sport coupes.

Hyundai’s youth-oriented model is the Tiburon. But its market share is being threatened by a new offering from Toyota’s hot-selling Scion brand. Auto reviewers have been raving about the 2005 Scion tC as a bargain that is also fun to drive.

So Hyundai Motor America Inc., the Fountain Valley-based import arm, has now slashed the sticker price of its 2005 Tiburon coupe by about $1,000 to match the Scion tC’s.

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Word of the price war has leaked out in recent days.

Toyota is a master “at manufacturing efficiencies, including maximizing economies of scale by sharing components among models,” said Wes Brown of Los Angeles market research firm Iceology. “This is a perfect example.”

Indeed, even after Hyundai’s cut, the Tiburon’s base price of $16,539 remains slightly higher than the $16,490 that Toyota charges for its standard Scion coupe.

Hyundai’s product planning chief, John Krafcik, said the company would also offer a cash-back incentive so the Tiburon, which is set to hit dealer showrooms by the end of the month, “very likely will cost less than the Scion.”

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Whatever the price, the Tiburon is roomier than the Scion and comes with Hyundai’s 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Scion’s warranty is for three years or 36,000 miles.

But the Scion offers some standard features, including anti-lock brakes and 17-inch alloy wheels, that cost extra on the Tiburon. And particularly important to many, the Scion has more power.

Yet the most telling disparity between the two cars is in their sales: By the end of October, after only four months in the U.S., 19,667 tC coupes had sold. That blew past the 17,484 previous Tiburon models purchased since January.


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