Hyundai Sonata Speeds to Top of Sales Charts; Nudges Honda Accord Among Midsizers

By Michelle Krebs September 7, 2010

Hyundai Sonata 2011.jpg The Hyundai Sonata is racing to the top of U.S. sales charts.

In August, Sonata grabbed third place among midsize cars for the third time since it was vastly redesigned earlier this year as a 2011 model; it is nudging the rear bumper of the Honda Accord.

The Toyota Camry remained in first place in sales among midsize sedans, but the Sonata easily overtook Nissan Altima in August; it already had passed by the Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion.

Overall, the Sonata has soared to sixth place among all vehicles sold in the United States -- it's highest ranking ever. It has been No. 1 for 22 of the past 24 weeks for shopping consideration among consumers visiting

And Hyundai has been selling only one version of the Sonata; hybrid and turbo models are upcoming.   

August's Third Among Midsizers

In August, Hyundai sold 21,399 Sonatas, which allowed it to roar past the Nissan Altima to take third place among midsize sedans and close in on the Honda Accord, which was second behind the Toyota Camry. In August, Hyundai sold only 3,749 Sonatas fewer than Honda did the Accord.

Midisize cars - July to August 2010 - 528.PNGAugust 2010 did not set a new sales record for the Sonata, however. Hyundai sold a stunning 24,872 Sonatas in December 2007, but that was of the previous generation and those sales cost Hyundai dearly. The Korean automaker paid a whopping $4,233 in incentives for each Sonata sold that month, according to's proprietary Total Cost of Incentives (TCI) calculations. Midsize car incentives - August 2010.JPG

By stark contrast to Hyundai then - and to its midsize competitors now - Hyundai paid virtually nothing in incentives to move so many Sonatas last month, which makes the sedan's sales performance all the more impressive.  

Hyundai paid a paltry $1,403 in incentives in August compared with the segment average of $2,433; not far off the industry average of $2,701 for every vehicle sold in August, according to's calculations.

Indeed, August 2009 represented an anomaly because the government's Cash for Clunkers program was at its peak. As a result, August 2010 to August 2009 comparisons show drop-offs in sales of the Toyota Camry and, to a lesser fall, the Honda Accord to more normal levels. The two were popular Cash for Clunkers buys.

However, so too was the Sonata and other Hyundai models as the automaker beat others to the punch by marketing and promoting its vehicles as Cash for Clunkers buys even before the program officially began. And despite the boost Sonata got from Cash for Clunkers last year, the new version had even higher sales this August compared with last.

Midsize car sales - aug. 2010 vs aug. 2009 - 531.PNG Still No. 1 on Shopping Lists

Even before it went on sale early this year, however, the buzz about the Sonata, which was officially unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January, was loud and positive; it ultimately went on sale in March.

The Sonata has been No. 1 in consideration among consumers shopping on since March 14 except for two weeks; in those weeks it was No. 2. This year marked the first time ever that the Sonata - or any Hyundai model, for that matter -- captured the No. 1 spot   on most shopped list since began tracking consideration data in 2007.

Weekly consideration data looks at how consumers are shopping for more than 400 models on Consideration data indicates the effectiveness of a marketing campaign Top selling vehicles - August 2010.jpg and may - or may not -- suggest future sales.

Climbing the Vehicle Sales Chart

For Hyundai, the buzz and consideration are being converted to sales, with the Sonata listed as No. 6 in sales of all vehicles sold in the U.S.

That is the highest ranking the Sonata has ever attained and a long way from the No. 36 spot it held in only January of this year.

Hyundai Sonata sales heights - 525.JPG Still No. 1 Remains Elusive - For Now

Despite its rapid upward trajectory, hitting No. 1 even in its segment is unlikely this year for the Sonata. 

"Although Sonata is gaining traction within the midsize car segment on a monthly basis, the launch was a little too late in order for the redesigned Sonata to be able to take down either of the two giants, Accord or Camry," said analyst Ivan Drury.

However, in 2011, when additional hybrid and turbo versions are on the market, the Sonata may have a better shot at beating Accord and Camry.

"Next year Sonata will have a far better chance, not just because of a full year's worth of sales but also due to the addition of the Turbo model, which should account for close to 20 of its sales, and the Hybrid," said Drury. "That full line-up gives Hyundai a chance to really compete." analysts Ivan Drury, Jeremy Acevedo, Mark Holthoff and Loren Wong provided the analysis and graphics for this post.

Photo by Hyundai


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dg0472 says: 3:33 PM, 09.08.10

They're actually a little closer than that if you use EPA standards, which call the Accord Crosstour an SUV. According to Honda's presser, 2,642 of those 25,148 Accords are Crosstours. That'd leave a difference of only 1,107 units. But Hyundai doesn't have the production to beat the Camry any time soon, unless someone else sucks off enough sales to reduce Camry to near Hyundai's capacity.

greenpony says: 10:47 AM, 09.10.10

Oh god, why? Why? This is almost the ugliest midsize car available in the US. I don't want to see any more of these on the road, because then I'll have to start closing my eyes when I drive. So for the sake of everyone's safety, Hyundai, please stop selling this car.

bb49 says: 1:12 AM, 09.11.10

I'm not surprised as the car is the best looking car in this category )clealy superior in styling to the Accord/Camry and it performs better than both cars. When the turbo and hybrid models are added there would be really know reason to even consider buying the Accord or Camry. If I were in the market for this type of car I would definitely buy the turbo model.


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