SEOUL (Reuters) - Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> on Tuesday began South Korean sales of its Palisade large sport utility vehicle (SUV), a model it hopes will spearhead a sales recovery in the United States when launched in its major overseas market next year.
Consumer preferences have shifted rapidly to SUVs in recent years, impacting Hyundai with its sedan-heavy line-up. The automaker has since introduced new SUVs, including a redesigned Santa Fe this year, but its U.S. sales still fell 1.6 percent in January-November in a near flat market.
Weak sales in the United States and China has left Hyundai bracing for a fifth consecutive year of annual profit decline.
In South Korea, the Palisade's price starts at 36.22 million won ($32,224.20), slightly higher than the smaller Santa Fe.
"I think it will sell well in Korea because of its price competitiveness, though the model could cannibalize sales of the Santa Fe," said auto analyst Sean Kim at Dongbu Securities.
Hyundai has not yet disclosed U.S. pricing for the three-row, eight-seat car, which will compete with the likes of Toyota Motor Corp's <7203.T> Highlander and Ford Motor Co's (F.N) Explorer.
At home, the automaker has embarked on a marketing blitz for the new model, including a full, front page teaser ad in a major newspaper, an endorsement by pop star BTS and featuring the car in television drama Encounter.
The Palisade will replace the larger version of the Santa Fe as Hyundai's biggest SUV. The automaker is looking to end a poor record in the large SUV segment, where it discontinued its Veracruz in 2013 as sales dwindled.
The new model will help Hyundai raise its number of SUV models to six next year, from two last year. Its premium brand Genesis also plans to launch its first SUV next year.
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Christopher Cushing)