Speculation has been mounting for some time now that Hyundai could spin off a luxury division, and those rumors have finally been confirmed. But while Toyota, Nissan and Honda initially targeted its luxury brands (Lexus, Infiniti and Acura, respectively) at the American market, emerging reports suggest that Hyundai's premium marque will make its debut in China.
Hyundai is currently the second most popular import in the rapidly-growing Chinese auto market, trailing only Toyota for sales in the country. With five different models, Hyundai sold 24,000 vehicles in China last year, and manufactures more in joint ventures locally. Eying the emerging luxury car market in China – Lexus sales increased 160 percent last year and was projected at 80% growth this year – Hyundai has confirmed it is preparing to launch its own premium brand there. However, while it would seem that the establishment of a luxury badge would allow the mainstream Hyundais to move downmarket, the Korean automaker is also attempting to take its standard models upmarket along with it. One of its most popular models in China, the Matrix minivan, is being withdrawn as Hyundai tries to increase its brand image as a premium automaker. In its place, Hyundai is bringing in the new Santa Fe, Azera, a larger, more expensive Coupe and a new premium crossover.
The luxury division – complete with its own name and badge – is expected to be officially launched in 2010. Whether the new brand will make the trip around the world and land on American shores remains to be seen, but we certainly wouldn't discount the possibility.