Posted by: Ihlwan Moon on April 2, 2009
It is increasingly looking like the start of a trend that could make Hyundai Motor a star player in a recession. The South Korean company just reported a 0.5% gain in its U.S. auto sales in the first quarter of this year, increasing its market share there to 4.3% from 2.7% a year earlier, the industry’s biggest gain this year. That’s remarkable at a time consumer confidence remained at almost a 42-year low in the U.S. and even respected Japanese auto makers are posting sales falls of more than a third.
In March, Hyundai posted a 4.8% year-on-year sales drop in America to 40,721. But such a fall would be envy for the Detroit Three and even mighty Toyota Motor. U.S. sales plunged 45% for GM in the month, 41% for Ford and 39% for Chrysler and Toyota, 36% for Honda and 38% for Nissan. Hyundai Motor America Vice President Dave Zuchowski notes that his company’s fall in March was from an all-time sales record a year earlier.
Hyundai executives say they are confident their company will keep its momentum in the U.S. They say a growing number of consumers are willing to test-drive Hyundai vehicles as they are looking for value for their money. Hyundai has also benefited from a program introduced in January that lets customers who finance their purchase return the car and have the loan canceled with no hit to their credit rating. GM and Ford started similar programs this week.
The Koreans are pinning their hope on improved performance of new models. Hyundai got an important boost in its campaign to go upscale when its Genesis sedan won the prestigious North American Car of the Year award on Jan. 11. Soon the company will add the new compact Elantra Touring and Genesis Coupe in its lineup. “As long as more drivers are willing to put Hyundai in their shopping list, which I think they will, Hyundai should be able to keep its U.S. market share at over 4%,” says Michael Jung, Hyundai’s senior vice president in charge of sales in North and Latin America.