Hyundai Sales Soar As It Becomes The New Car King

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Hyundai Motors has done what no other global car company has–grown through the recession.

The Korean operation released financial results. It believes it will sell over three million cars this year compared to 2.8 million in 2008.  Hyundai’s third quarter global market share rose to 5.5% compared to 5.2% in the second.

Hyundai’s third quarter profit tripled to $827 million from the same period in 2008. Chrysler and GM should be as lucky.

Hyundai appears to have moved into the place that the Japanese held in the global car market for most of the 1980s, 1990s, and early this decade. It was first the low-cost producer, but manufacturing and design improvements made it the low-cost, high-quality alternative for many buyers.

Hyundai has also been a crafty marketer. Early in 2009, it introduced a program in the US that offered to make payments on cars bought by people if they later lost their jobs. The Korean company has taken the cost risk of introducing a full model line including small fuel-efficient vehicles, SUVs,  sports cars, and a large luxury sedan, the Genesis, as its flagship. Almost all of these autos are sold at prices well below comparable American, European, or Japanese vehicles.

Hyundai’s results will deepen the depression among managers at the world’s other large auto companies. Hyundai was not considered a viable competitor just five years ago. But, then, GM was the largest car firm in the world in 2004.

Douglas A. McIntyre