Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Deliveries Delayed
By Chris Haak
The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, which is to be Hyundai’s first hybrid vehicle sold in the US, was originally supposed to go on sale in late 2010. But now in early March, there are only a handful of units on the ground. The reason for the delay? The original version of the Sonata Hybrid had a user-activated synthetic engine sound to alert pedestrians to the presence of an electrically-powered Sonata creeping along, but the President Obama signed a bill into law on January 4 that required the eventual implementation of an automatic audible pedestrian warning system.
Though the Sonata Hybrid with a defeatable audio warning would be legal for sale in the US for a few more years, Hyundai decided to go to the effort of changing the car’s implementation of the system to eliminate the switch. More than just removing the switch, though, Hyundai had to modify the car’s wiring harness, user-interface software, and owner’s manual to make the switch. Or rather, to remove the switch.
As a result of the last-minute changes, Sonata Hybrid deliveries are not yet at dealerships in any sizable quantities. However, there are apparently 700 units of the car enroute to the US, either at sea or already in port, according to Hyundai spokesman John Trainor. This means that, although the first few deliveries of the car did occur in January, dealers will not be well-stocked in the car until late March or early April.
Another impact of the delay is that the $1,300 tax credit that buyers of the Sonata Hybrid would have originally qualified for is not available. The tax credit expired on December 31, 2010, and the car didn’t actually hit the market until January, 2011.
Frankly, I’m not convinced that pedestrian-friendly sound effects are necessary. People should look before walking across a street or parking lot, drivers should pay attention to their surroundings, and both parties should make eye contact before crossing one anothers’ paths. The first time I drove a Prius, I was EVing around the parking lot of the local grocery store, and did surprise a few pedestrians, but I was paying enough attention to mean that nobody was in danger. Now, we just have extra noise pollution.