Hyundai Predicts Breaking All-Time U.S. Sales Record This WeekBy Bill Visnic November 16, 2010
The modest recovery in auto sales this year has been a little more than modest for Hyundai Motor America, the South Korean automaker steamrolling the U.S. market with a blitz of alluring new products, including the 2011 Sonata, which has emerged as a breakout success in the mega-competitive midsize-sedan segment.
Now, Hyundai is projecting it will hit two sales milestones this year. The first is breaking its all-time U.S. sales record, which at a media event last Friday, president and CEO John Krafcik said will occur sometime this week.
Krafcik said Hyundai is confident it also will achieve a symbolic and long-cherished sales objective by the end of the year: surpassing a half-million sales in the U.S. It is a mark Hyundai has coveted and even predicted it would attain in 2007, only to fall slightly short.
By The Numbers
Hyundai's pending twin sales achievements - breaking its all-time U.S. sales record and cracking the half-million-unit barrier - are closely related in terms of volume.
Hyundai's all-time U.S. sales record was 467,009 units in 2007. Through October of this year, Hyundai sold 452,703, leading the company to project breaking its 2007 sales record some time this week.
It's all but inevitable, then, that if Hyundai surpasses 467,000 sales in mid-November, the company is assured of breaking the 500,000-unit mark by the end of the year. It demonstrates the vitality of Hyundai's growing presence in a market that is only mildly improving over disastrous 2009.
Last year, Hyundai had 435,064 U.S. sales, so a move past the half-million sales barrier makes for an overall gain this year of at least 15 percent, but one that likely will be slightly better.
Meanwhile, Krafcik also said the company continues to improve its retail share at a time when other makers' gains this year have been abetted by fleet sales.
Through October, Hyundai's retail market share stood at 4.8 percent, compared with 3.1 percent in 2009 and 2.7 percent in 2008. And Hyundai's increase in overall market share - now often cited throughout the industry to evidence the shifting tides of the U.S. market - has been almost constant since 1998, when the company held a mere 0.6-percent market share.
One factor in Hyundai's latest sales climb has been a marked increase in leasing. Data from Edmunds.com indicate Hyundai's overall lease penetration was 17.8 percent of total sales in October - the second-highest lease rate on record for the brand and a figure up drastically from the same month last year, when just 3.1 percent of Hyundais were leased.
"Hyundai's sales are being boosted by allowing customers to 'try out' the brand via leasing," said Edmunds.com industry and pricing analyst Ivan Drury. "Special (subvented) lease offers are another avenue for consumers to get into a Hyundai. This speaks to Hyundai's confidence with their residual values, because it would be too costly to allow these lease specials if it weren't for high projected residuals."
More Blasts Coming
Hyundai's hardly finished. The new-product barrage is ongoing as the year winds down: Krafcik said sales of the Lexus-baiting Equus flagship sedan begin on or around Dec. 1, while at the other end of the model range, the company will unveil an all-new replacement for the popular Elantra compact car at this week's Los Angeles Auto show.
With a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine from an all-new engine family, Hyundai engineers said all versions of the Elantra - either with the standard 6-speed manual or optional 6-speed automatic transmission - will hit 40 miles per gallon on the highway, a point that now seems crucial in compact-car marketing.
The 2011 Elantra, which goes on sale before the end of the year, also closely mirrors the styling of the 2011 Sonata midsize sedan; that styling has proved to be an attribute central to the new Sonata's breakout success this year.
The Sonata, which saw sales boom 125 percent to 17,505 units last month to blow by well-established competitors Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion, is ready to add an aggressively priced hybrid variant as well as a Sonata with a turbocharged 2-liter 4-cylinder engine that rivals the power of the competition's optional V6s while delivering markedly better fuel economy.
And it doesn't stop there.
At the last week's media event, Hyundai laid out a roadmap of coming powertrain advances that include two all-new 4-cylinder engine families, a new, highly efficient 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission and improvements to its highline Tau V8 that include a displacement increase from 4.6 liters to 5 liters and the addition of direct-injection fueling that deliver another 44 horsepower (to a total of 429 hp) yet improve fuel economy and reduce emissions.