European demand boosts sales at Hyundai and Kia
The nation’s two auto giants expect the E.U. market to make up its loss of market share in the United States and China.
According to data compiled by the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association and released Thursday, the two companies sold a combined 431,820 units - 231,445 by Hyundai and 200,375 by Kia - in Europe through June, an 8.3 percent increase from sales a year earlier. The combined sales figure was the best the companies have ever had in that market.
Kia had the biggest gain, selling more than 200,000 units and a record 104,137 in the second quarter. The company said most offerings in its lineup were popular, but sales were led by the Sportage SUV, with 56,002 units leaving showroom floors. The SUV was the best-selling model for both companies.
Hyundai sales were led by its SUV and hatchback models. It moved 55,749 units of its ix35 SUV, which is sold in Korea as the Tucson. It also sold 47,080 units of its five-door hatchback i10 and an additional 48,998 units of the new i20 hatchback.
The two companies expect sales in Europe to keep increasing in the second half. Kia Motors has pinned its hopes on the Sportage; a new model will appear in September. The company expects to sell more than 120,000 Sportages this year.
It will also start selling a revamped model of its mid-size K5 sedan, which went on sale here in Korea in July. About 24 percent of Kia’s sales in the global market last year were sales of those two models, the company said.
Hyundai will have new models as well, including a redone Tucson and small Elantra sedan.
The Tucson is the best-selling SUV in the export market for the company, and Elantra accounts for about 15 percent of the company’s entire global sales. About 930,000 Elantras were sold last year, making it the third most popular exported automobile in its lineup.
“Overall economic conditions for the car industry have improved in Europe lately,” Hwang Kwan-sik, a spokesman for Hyundai Motor, told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “We expect some of our popular models, including the i20, to lead sales in the global market.”
Hyundai Motor is also eyeing a new truck as part of its efforts to boost sales in the United States. Dave Zuchowski, president and chief executive officer of Hyundai Motor America, said in a recent interview with Korean media that he expects to produce a Santa Cruz pickup truck in the U.S. this year, adding that the production plan for the pickup truck should be approved by corporate headquarters this November.
Hyundai unveiled a concept for a mid-size truck at the Detroit Motor Show in January, acknowledging the continuing popularity of these models in the U.S. market. Americans bought 180,700 mid-size pickup trucks in the first half, a 52 percent increase from a year earlier.
But the Hyundai America boss may have been doing a bit of negotiating with his bosses here. Hwang, the headquarters spokesman, said nothing has been decided.
“It is true that we have been working on technical things for a truck, but that goes on every month in our R&D center. The pickup truck market is a tough one, and we need to consider carefully because it is dominated by local automakers like Ford and GM.”
BY KWON SANG-SOO [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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