Hyundai, Kia’s shift to SUVs pays off in U.S.

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Hyundai, Kia’s shift to SUVs pays off in U.S.

Hyundai Motor Group’s strategy to strengthen its SUV lineup has yielded success in the United States, as more than half of the cars Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors sold in the country this year were SUVs.

According to the two automakers, Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors sold a total of 1.2 million vehicles in the United States between January and November this year.

Of those vehicles, 668,328, or 55.4 percent, were SUVs. This is the first time that Hyundai Motor’s and Kia Motors’ SUV sales have accounted for more than 50 percent of their total car sales in the United States.

From January to November this year, Hyundai Motor sold 333,452 SUVs, which accounts for 51.9 percent of 643,062 vehicles the automaker sold in the United States this year. Sister company Kia Motors sold 334,876 SUVs through November, or 59.4 percent, of 564,109 vehicles sold until last month.

SUV sales accounted for only 30.9 percent of total sales for Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors in the United States in 2013, which is when the automaker group started being considered as a global company with exports over 4 million cars.

As a means to bolster its sales and profits, Hyundai Motor Group has been focusing on increasing the ratio of more profitable cars like SUVs and its premium Genesis branded cars.

Hyundai Motor was selling only two SUV models - the Santa Fe and Tucson - in the United States until 2017 but launched the Kona and Nexo in the country last year and additionally started selling the Palisade and Venue there this year. Kia Motors sold three SUV models - the Sorento, Sportage and Soul - in the United States until 2016 but expanded the lineup with the Niro in 2017 and Telluride in 2019.

Thanks to the new models, Hyundai Motor Group’s proportion of SUV sales in the United States has steadily increased to 39.5 percent in 2016, 44.2 percent in 2017 and 49.7 percent in 2018.

Among the newly added models, two large-sized SUV models from Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors especially drove the success. Hyundai Motor’s Palisade, which was launched in the United States in June this year, sold 23,082 units through November, and Kia Motors’ Telluride sold 52,108 units during the same period.

Analysts believe that Hyundai Motor Group is on the right track, as they expect the Korean automaker group to see increased profits from committing to more expensive vehicle types in the globally stagnating auto industry.

“We expect [Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors] to see their sales increase in major markets as new models expected to be launched next year will fight the sales drop to come from the aging models in place,” said Nam Jung-mi, an analyst at Yuanta Securities Korea, in a report.

Kia Motors is expected to launch the small-sized Seltos SUV in the United States early next year while Hyundai Motor is planning to launch the newly upgraded Tucson SUV. Genesis is also preparing to introduce the GV80 SUV.

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]

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