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Germany

Hyundai Takes Aim At Bypassing VW Passat?

In Germany and Japan, no competitor has been able to match the VW Passat. But Korean carmaker Hyundai is taking aim at the midsized market. A German car reviewer takes a spin.

Hyundai i40
Hyundai i40
Thomas Geiger

The bosses at Volkswagon and Toyota should watch out. In recent years, Korean carmaker Hyundai has become - along with its subsidary Kia - the fifth largest car manufacturer in the world. And on the wave of this success, Hyundai is now poised to take on a new opponent.

The car that will lead this attack has a very simple name: the i40, but the competition better take notice, says Allan Rushforth, head of the Korean company's European operations. "This is our first serious car in the so called D-segment."

D-segment means mid-sized car ("large family" in Europe), and officially, the i40 will be positioned against cars like the Toyota Avensis or the Mazda 6. "But in this segment, there is only true one yardstick: the VW Passat," says chief engineer Axel Honisch.

It's the Passat, the bestseller from Wolfsburg, that Hyundai engineers had in mind when they developed the i40's suspension, steering and gearbox. It was the measure for material selection, quality, and size. "Of course we are not the best in every category, but in all disciplines we come pretty damn close," says Honiball.

The i40's stand-alone qualities show how important Hyundai's success in Europe is to the company. The car doesn't follow the U.S. model (like its predecessor the Sonata), or the typical car from Korea. Instead, the entirely new car was created at the German Development Center in Rüsselsheim, with its own technology and unique design.

On a test ride through the Taunus, the 4.77 meter long car has a smooth ride, is quiet on the road, and still picks up quickly through uphill curves. Later, on the highway, we have a chance to check out the dashboard. The consoles are stylish, decorated with plenty of chrome, piano lacquer, leather, and brilliant displays akin to those of an iPad. This car has nothing to do with the plastic boxes of Hyundai's past.

For those willing to pay more than the 23,000-euro base price of the car, Hyundai will offer a number of extra comforts and handy features, including active parking guidance and xenon headlights.

Thanks to a 2.77-meter wheelbase and adjustable-angle seatbacks, the i40 also grants a surprising amount of comfort to backseat passengers. With a whopping 553 liters of trunk space, the i40 hatchback's storage space grows to 1719 liters when the back seats are flipped forward. Though this is slightly smaller than the Passat, the i40 makes up for it with a much lower loading edge.

Even with i40s drive keeps up with the German competition. Hyundai's new 1.7-liter diesel engine is available in either 115 or 136 hp, along with two gasoline engines of 1.6 and 2.0-liter displacement, and 135 or 177 hp.

Rushforth's official sales target for the car is relatively modest: "60,000 vehicles a year, a place in the top six in its class, ahead of the Mazda 6 and the Toyota Avensis." It is nearly impossible to threaten the Passat on its home turf, but in the United States, where both VW and Hyundai are visiting players, the competition looks very different. In the U.S., registrations of the Volkswagon model came in at 12,500 for the entire year of 2010, while Hyundai has been selling over 16,000 Sonatas -- per month.

Read the original article in German.

Photo - KCB

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Future

Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGO — TikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

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