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Hyundai highlights safety with redesign

– Hyundai Motor Co. has emphasized improved safety features and a premium image with its fully redesigned Sonata sedan, its latest effort to regain lost U.S. market share and win back South Koreans who’re increasingly buying foreign cars.

Redesigned for a seventh time since the midsize family sedan made its debut in 1985, the latest Sonata model is Hyundai’s answer to a flurry of safety issues and customer complaints at home and abroad.

Once known as a maker of second-rate cars, the South Korean automaker became among the fastest growing auto brands with premium models such as the Genesis that vied with more established German models.

But its reputation was dented recently by recalls and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s finding that Hyundai and its sister company Kia had overstated gas mileage estimates. Hyundai and Kia Motors Corp. agreed to pay up to $395 million to consumers as a settlement still pending court approval.

“The new Sonata was developed as a premium family sedan,” Hwang Chung-yul, a Hyundai vice president told reporters.

Hyundai’s U.S. market share was steady last year after falling to 4.6 percent in 2012 from 5.1 percent in 2011.