[THE INVESTOR] Amid its faltering performance in China, Hyundai Motor Group has recently set up a special task force to overcome the sales.
Last month, the nation’s largest auto group -- comprising Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors -- gathered around 100 employees in research and design, marketing and product team to join the newly formed group, according to the automaker on July 10.
“The task force will analyze the Chinese market to improve sales amid the recent THAAD fallout,” a Hyundai spokesperson told The Investor. “We gathered experts from different divisions to come up with an overall strategy.”
In June, Hyundai’s sales slumped more than 60 percent as Chinese consumers turned away from Korean products amid heightened political tension between Seoul and Beijing over the deployment of US-led THAAD missile system.
Last month, Hyundai’s China sales plummeted 64 percent to 35,000 units from a year earlier while Kia’s dropped 62 percent to 17,000 units.
If the sales slump continues in the world’s largest auto market -- which accounts for more than one fifth of Hyundai’s sales by volume -- the carmaker may miss its overall annual target of 8.25 million units.
Industry watchers project that if the recession continues, Hyundai will only be able to sell 40 percent of its annual China sales target of 1.95 million units.
To fight the crisis, Hyundai has been putting all-out efforts to win back Chinese consumers.
The carmaker said it plans to unveil four new cars in China this year in the second half. It will debut the China-exclusive ix35 sport utility vehicle, as well as its new subcompact sedan Reina.
Its smaller corporate cousin Kia is set to launch K2 Cross, a crossover version of the K2 sedan, and the Pegas compact sedan.
It recently hired Simon Loasby, head designer of Volkswagen Group China, to lead its design team in China. Hyundai hopes the China expert will develop localized models.
Hyundai is also tying up with Chinese tech giant Baidu to develop a real-time navigation system Baidu MapAuto and Duer OS Auto, Baidu’s speed recognition digital assistant, with plans to launch a new car that is equipped with the two systems.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)