The Azera has been consistently outsold by its rivals. Through June, Hyundai has shifted just 4,191 units.

Hyundai's dealers call the Azera the "nicest car nobody knows about." That's according to Mike O'Brien, Hyundai Motor America's vice president of corporate and product planning. Indeed, the fullsize sedan is a handsome, well-rounded machine, loaded with creature comforts. Yet it's not selling well, and its space in Hyundai showrooms is about to get a whole lot more crowded thanks to the newly spruced-up 2015 Sonata. No surprise, then, that company officials admit that the model's future in the US is uncertain.

The Korean automaker's Sonata family sedan has all-new styling that's a lot less divisive than last year, with a more conservative, crisply tailored aesthetic that reads upscale, particularly in higher-end trims. It's also larger inside, offers a more refined interior, and comes with more available creature comforts and safety features. In other words, the Sonata's redesign is poised to make the Azera's business case even more problematic, especially as the new midsizer starts at just $21,150.

Introduced at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show as a 2012 model, the Asan, South Korea-assembled Azera is a car that has been consistently outsold by its rivals. Through June, Hyundai has shifted just 4,191 units in 2014 – down from 5,792 cars at this time last year. This, despite the base price on the 2014 model being dropped by $1,250 to $31,000 through standard equipment changes. Compare that to Chevrolet's Impala, which cleared 14,378 units in June and a total of 78,499 this year. Or the Toyota Avalon (5,605 units in June, 32,031 units year to date) and Buick LaCrosse (5,332 units in June and 25,280 units year to date). Even the due-for-replacement Nissan Maxima sold 3,528 models in June and has moved 23,451 so far in 2014.

The The 2015 model-year Azera will be a late arrival this fall, but after that, its fate is an open question.

Hyundai's manager of product planning for Azera and Sonata, John Shon, says he still sees daylight between the newly matured Sonata, the Azera and the company's pricier Genesis Sedan. "We look at it [Azera] as a large car, and as a near luxury car – it sort of straddles that gap. Also, we don't have a V6 engine, the Sonata has a 2.0-liter turbo." Shon continues: "One of the great things about Azera is it's a customer-loyalty product. When we look at who is buying the product, over half the buyers are previous Sonata owners, so it's the move-up vehicle."

But the step up benefit isn't as clear in light of the new Sonata – there's little difference between it and the Azera in terms of cabin space in both specific dimensions like headroom (Azera: 40.3 inches, Sonata: 40.4 inches), overall passenger space (107 cubic feet vs. 106.1) or cargo space (16.3 cubic feet for both). Performance figures are similar between the two (with the exception of fuel economy, where the Sonata is significantly better), and interior materials and refinement levels are similar now, too. It doesn't help that Hyundai hasn't earmarked much in the way of a marketing budget for the Azera, instead preferring to focus on its US-built offerings like the Sonata and Elantra.

The 2015 model-year Azera will be a late arrival this fall, but after that, its fate is an open question. When Autoblog asked Shon if America will see a next-generation model, he admitted, "[That's] to be seen at this particular point... obviously we'll see what the market take-rate for the Sonata is, how the Azera continues to do, how the Genesis continues to do."

There's little doubt that a third-generation Azera will be made, as the car is a strong seller in Hyundai's home market. "That vehicle is a Korean domestic market vehicle," says Shon. "They sell over 100,000 of those a year there. So the vehicle will be built, engineered. Whether we import it into the US is still to be determined."



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  • 57 Comments
      Paul
      • 5 Months Ago
      Hyundai has no one to blame but themselves for the demise of this car. The same reason the first generation and entourage didn't sell. There is absolutely no marketing. When was the last time you saw advertisements for this car? The car does work for Hyundai because the genesis is now more expensive than ever, plus it is rear wheel drive. The Sonata is nice, but the Azera is MUCH nicer and I have driven both plenty of times. I'm not a fan of the new Sonata and if I were choosing between an Azera or Sonata, it would be the Azera. As far as the price decrease for the 2014, they took out nav which was previously standard. The Azeras packaging does need work though.
      FIDTRO
      • 5 Months Ago
      Get rid of it. Then get rid of the rest of the Hyundai brand. Job done.
        jphyundai
        • 5 Months Ago
        @FIDTRO
        What do you drive? Hyundai cars provide decent low cost transportation to many of us common folk. The upmarket offerings remind me of a JDM Toyota Crown which is unavailable here at any price. Good price, value, features, economy with a little blandness thrown in. Nothing wrong with a Hyundai, nothing particularly great about them either
      Porschetr
      • 5 Months Ago
      When I was in Seoul, the streets were coated with this car. All the taxis were Sonatas though.
      Larry Lewelling
      • 5 Months Ago
      The real problem is the Hyundai name associated with a luxury car. They should do what Toyota, Nissan and Honda did for their luxury lines - put them under a different badge name.
      IBx27
      • 5 Months Ago
      azera; when the camry is too exciting and flamboyant for your taste.
        chonnes
        • 5 Months Ago
        @IBx27
        Typical premium sedan buyers prefer conservative styling over anything more "flamboyant". Therefore you are wrong in your assumption that energetic sedan styling equates to increased sales. Look at any Camry and the 3rd to 4th generation of Ford Taurus. Younger demographics place higher importance on styling but there are not enough of them with the money to affect sales significantly. My guess is that you are probably in your mid-twenties.
      rbnhd1144
      • 5 Months Ago
      Truly one of the best looking 4 door cars on the road in my opinion, great lines.
      Master Austin
      • 5 Months Ago
      Its never been a strong offering and honestly like the rest of the Hyundai line it' s not very reliable from the comments i have read. Might as well just kill it and focus money on making their whole line more reliable.
      FX Gts
      • 5 Months Ago
      I would choose the Impala any day over this.
      Avinash Machado
      • 5 Months Ago
      A very underrated car.
      dannyds9
      • 5 Months Ago
      I agree with others on here...when was the last time, if ever, that you saw an Azera commercial? Sorry, but to me, the new Sonata is just a plain jane compared to the current body style. As far as all of this "upscale", it's getting to be like you have to dress to the nines to be driving the cars coming out today.
        chonnes
        • 5 Months Ago
        @dannyds9
        Consider the styling of the 2013 Sonata and Optima which sold 203K and 155K units for the 2013 model year. Compare these with the Camry that sold 408K units an Accord at 367K units. As car manufacturers have leveled the playing field regarding quality and value, styling begins to be the next point of differentiation. In general, any new car is likely to be reliable for the next 5 years so when choosing among them consumers can choose what appeals them more intangibly; style, color, etc. If a dull Camry can achieve double the volume of the more stylish 2013 Sonata, than it makes more sense to go conservative in favor of higher volumes. Styling is an emotional choice versus the rational choices regarding price and quality. At the launch of the 2009 Sonata, Hyundai had no real volume in the category and wasn't seen as an honest competitor to the established brands. This is why they took a bold styling direction: nothing to lose and everything to gain. Now that they are established, going more conservative will push sales up while opening up those that prefer bolder styling to move up within the brand now that they've had 5 years of increasing buying power and exposure to the brand.
      jamiescale
      • 5 Months Ago
      Does Hyundai even advertise the Azera? Most folks need to know a car exists before putting it on their short-list
        chonnes
        • 5 Months Ago
        @jamiescale
        As an automobile marketer with limited budgets, we have to choose vehicles to advertise very strategically and based on the long term goals of the parent company. New car introductions will always be priority unless that model is both new AND high-volume, at which point it becomes top priority. We must consider the highest volume opportunities for both sales and growth in the U.S. market which are mid/full size sedans, CUV/SUVs and compacts. These can easily consume 75% - 85% of your budgets but they also provide the most dynamic indication of success which is sales volumes and profit. Increasing sales by only a few percent has huge implications in profit, brand awareness/acceptance and customer perceptions. By extreme contrast, Lexus could dump every dollar they have into marketing the LF-A and not increase sales or profits one bit. When you then look at remaining budgets and your remaining priority list you start slashing from the perspectives of whether we can make a difference by marketing a particular model and whether the dollars are better spent supporting our bread-and-butter. In general, luxury or premium cars really only require a solid launch. After this strategic maintenance is the only thing needed. Another consideration is that marketing budgets from dealer associations are significant. The Texas Ford dealer association has budgets that are actually bigger than Ford Motor Company but if you try and tell them to move a little bit of truck money to something else they will laugh in your face because total sales/profits is their driving force and NOT in helping to build a brand or image. Hyundai is very clear and very focused in their climb to the top. Launching as a brand whose most redeeming quality was offering the cheapest new car in the market and transforming into a legitimate, high-volume competitor in the U.S. market is nothing short of amazing. When Hyundai sees that Azera can be positioned to erode competitive market share, they will take big action. Right now they watch and learn and plan.
      carguy1701
      • 5 Months Ago
      Can't really see a business case for it between the new Sonata and Genesis.
        churchmotor
        • 5 Months Ago
        @carguy1701
        LOL, so tell us, based on your "business" experience, education, and in-depth analysis, why is this not selling?
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