Friday, January 7, 2011

Hyundai and Kia are riding high, but Detroit has stepped up their game

Coming out of 2010, from which Hyundai and Kia emerged with a whopping 21.7% increase in sales from a year earlier, the other big story is that Detroit has finally surpassed its Japanese competition to regain the number-one slots. Part of this is the ugly truth that even at $3/gallon fuel, many Americans still want to drive meaty gas guzzlers, but another side of it is that American carmakers are responding to a skeptical market.

Oh, and then there is that other factor. While a couple years ago, Toyota Motors seemed unstoppable, it turns out that it was Toyotas themselves.

From the Los Angeles Times:
For the first time in years, American nameplates such as Chevrolet and Ford outsold the Toyota brand in the U.S.

Sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles, which are American manufacturers' bread and butter, are on the upswing. Rental companies and commercial fleets, which favor domestic products, have been doing some heavy buying.

"Another factor is that the domestics are bringing out strong new offerings in other segments," said Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive of, the auto information company. "We have yet to see a coherent response from the Japanese.

"Toyota has had a brand image crisis, while Honda has taken a very conservative approach to market share," Anwyl said, and "may have left sales on the table."

Overall, Toyota Motor Corp. was the only major auto company to see sales decrease from 2009.
Well, if even Americans are starting to look at Chevys more favorably, maybe the plan to rebadge Korea-made GM Daewoo vehicles as Chevrolets isn't such a nonstarter after all. (Actually, I kinda like the idea, and it does remind me of way back when in Korea, when you could see Korea-made Fords plying the streets of Seoul.)

And speaking of Korean cars, this is what the above article had to say about Hyundai/Kia's changing fortunes:
Audi of America, Hyundai Motor Co. and its sister company, Kia Motors Corp., and Subaru of America all set U.S. sales records and gained market share despite the slow pace of auto sales overall. Volkswagen of America had its best year since 2003.

Analysts were impressed by the growth at South Korea's Hyundai and its Kia sibling. They sold a combined 894,496 vehicles in 2010, up 21.7% from the prior year and very close to Nissan's total of 908,570.

"We used to call the top makers the big six — the domestic three and the Japanese three — and now all of our analysis is based on the big seven and includes Hyundai," said Jesse Toprak, an analyst at

Hyundai has made the leap from a brand for people "who couldn't buy or afford anything else" to one that offers vehicles "people choose to buy based on the merits of the products," he said.
I think I'll print this out and post it in the window of my mother's Santa Fe.

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