As we’ve noted before, Hyundai and Kia have been quick to exploit the weakness of the domestic auto industry by advertising their American-made cars as American-made cars. Now, they’re taking the attack to a whole new level, as Hyundai USA President John Krafcik tells CNN Money that his brand will build 80 percent of its vehicles in the United States by next year. If the Korean brand can actually achieve that goal, it would make Hyundai’s lineup the most American-built full line on the market. And though he insists that Hyundai doesn’t make decisions about production based on PR, Krafcik can’t help but twist the knife, saying
I’m going to build my three best selling cars in the US. Ford builds its best selling car in Mexico.
Ford’s rebuttal to Krafcik’s slam was measured, if not entirely responsive, with spokesman John Stoll saying
I think we’re encouraged that, overall, American manufacturing is competitive
Ford wouldn’t give an exact number for its US assembly percentage, but conceded that it was less than 80 percent. Chrysler was similarly reticent on the issue, but given its large Canadian manufacturing footprint, CNN Money reckons the Pentastar builds far less than 80 percent of its vehicles in the United States. GM admitted that it manufactures only “60 to 70 percent” of its vehicles here in the USA.
That would appear to put Hyundai on course for becoming the most domestic automaker in America (in terms of final assembly)… as long as it actually meets its goal. But wait, says JD Power analyst Jeff Schuster:
I don’t have it at 80%. I have it closer to 70%
Schuster explains that Hyundai’s forthcoming US-built Santa Fe and Elantra will have to experience sales gains similar to the Sonata’s recent surge in order to hit Krafcik’s projection. Besides, even if GM only built 60 percent of its US sales in the US, it would still have built triple the volume that Hyundai expects to build here next year. Still, with Hyundai’s products enjoying critical and commercial success right now, a market-topping percentage of US-built cars is just icing on an already-tasty cake. And as Krafcik reminds us, the old-fashioned benefits of “build ’em where you sell ’em,” namely production flexibility and currency stability, haven’t gone away either.