[THE INVESTOR] ORANGE COUNTY, California -- Half of Hyundai Motor USA’s sales will be from SUVs by 2020, up from last year’s 38 percent, according to the firm’s CEO.
Lee Kyung-soo, head of Hyundai USA -- the regional office in charge of the South Korean auto giant’s operations in North America -- said the carmaker will have eight new re-engineered SUVs in the next three years including Hyundai’s first-ever pickup truck, the Santa Cruz, to help achieve that goal.
The concept of the small crossover pickup was unveiled in 2015 at the Detroit Motor Show. The carmaker’s head office in Seoul had approved Hyundai USA’s request to develop the vehicle to meet the high demand for pickups. The vehicle, designed by Hyundai USA, is currently also under development in South Korea, he said.
The Korean carmaker’s strength in sedans failed to cater to the high demand for SUVs in recent years, data have shown.
Hyundai’s regional office sold a total of 685,555 units last year, of which sedans accounted for 64 percent of total sales.
Its sales ratio by type was opposite the current trend in the entire US auto market, where of the 17.2 million cars sold across the US, 65 percent was SUVs, while sedans accounted for only 35 percent.
“It is true that Hyundai still has weak SUV lineups to meet the market demand. But the launch of Kona is expected to offer a turnaround for us,” he said, referring to carmaker’s first compact SUV. The first batch of Kona to the US was shipped earlier this month and the vehicles will be able to reach Hyundai USA’s dealers within March, he added.
Hyundai USA has also been given wider authority to control the stocks and production from the Alabama and South Korean plants.
“We will have zero inventory starting in July, by reducing the shipment from Korea. Under the company’s new strategy, Hyundai USA will make decisions on the number of cars (to be produced) in line with the market situation,” he said.
As for the motor group’s luxury brand Genesis, which will be launched as an independent marque this year, the USA office plans to re-establish a dealership network by introducing the G70 sedan within the first half of the year, he said.
Orange County, California-based Hyundai USA has hired Brian Smith as chief operating officer, an industry veteran who spent 35 years at Toyota and Lexus, to reorganize its sales strategy.
Asked about growing fears that Hyundai could lose its presence to Chinese OEMs’ arrival in the US, Kim expressed confidence that they were no match to the South Korean carmaker, which has 32 years of experience selling cars in the US.
Lee was named to lead Hyundai USA in September last year, after a leadership vacuum of almost nine months during which the carmaker suffered sluggish sales in the US market. It is the fourth-largest foreign automaker in US, securing 7.4 percent in market share last year.
By Cho Chung-un/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)