QOTD: Are Hyundai's Troubles Nothing A Few SUVs Can't Fix?
This is not what you’d call a long history of sales difficulties for Hyundai, the seventh-best-selling auto brand in America. The 2016 calendar year was Hyundai Motor America’s best ever, the culmination of eight consecutive years of growth.
Yet while Hyundai rapidly — and not unpredictably — grew its U.S. sales coming out of the recession, nearly doubling its sales between 2008 and 2016, the rate of growth was notably slower in 2016 than in prior years. Blame capacity constraints, blame a car-centric lineup in an SUV-leaning world, blame conservative redesigns, blame whatever you want.
Regardless, Hyundai is feeling the pinch now. Year-over-year, sales have declined in each of the last six months. Hyundai’s U.S. CEO, Dave Zuchowski, was ousted just before Christmas 2016. In May 2017, for the first time ever, Kia outsold Hyundai in the United States. And on June 6, 2017, Hyundai Motor America’s vice president for sales, Derrick Hatami, exited the building as well.
All is not well. So then, more SUVs?
Perhaps, but is Hyundai really lacking in the SUV/crossover sector?
Hyundai’s utility vehicle lineup is just as big as Honda’s. The Tucson, Santa Fe Sport, and Santa Fe stack up against the HR-V, CR-V, and Pilot, and where are the accusations that Honda’s utility vehicle lineup is found wanting?
Indeed, heading into May, Hyundai wasn’t short on SUV/crossover supply, either. According to Automotive News, Hyundai had a 72-day supply of utility vehicles as of May 1; a 46-day supply of passenger cars. Meanwhile, Hyundai is increasing the value quotient of its bigger utility vehicles. Hyundai will also eventually add the Kona subcompact crossover at the bottom of the lineup to take on the Honda HR-V.
But the Kona’s timing speaks to Hyundai’s slow reaction to the SUV/crossover craze. Competitors already exist at Buick, Chevrolet, Fiat, Honda, Jeep, Mazda, Mini, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Subaru. The Santa Fe is more than four years old; the Santa Fe Sport is in its fifth model year. Freshness helps: the not-quite two-year-old, third-generation Hyundai Tucson just reported its best month of U.S. sales ever.
In fact, year-to-date, Hyundai’s three-pronged utility vehicle division is up 20 percent. But while the U.S. market leans on light trucks for more than 60 percent of its sales, Hyundai brand relies on a car division (that’s lost 16 percent of its sales so far this year) for nearly 70 percent of its U.S. volume.
Perhaps Hyundai’s early 2017 downturn is a blip on the radar. Maybe Hyundai can turn the ship around in the second half, during what’s expected to be a market-wide decline.
But if not, what would you do to fix Hyundai Motor America’s current difficulties?
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