By on September 10, 2018

Image: Hyundai

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Former British PM Winston Churchill used this somewhat confusing quote to describe the status of the war following the defeat of Axis forces in North Africa, and it popped into my head while scanning Hyundai’s U.S. sales data for the month of August.

The sales slump experienced by a once-skyrocketing Hyundai is well covered. Last year was a grim one for the brand, as a combination of falling passenger car sales and not enough crossovers saw the automaker’s U.S. fortunes tumble. Since then, Hyundai’s been on a new or refreshed model tear, and it’s not over yet. Has the automaker’s recovery seen the end of the beginning?

To sum up last year’s sales, 11 out of 12 months saw the brand suffer year-over-year monthly losses — often significant ones. This year’s tally of 435,852 vehicles sold in the U.S. (through the end of August) remains lower than that of the same period last year, but not by a lot. It’s 1.25 percent below 2017’s figure. Still, there’s promising signs that the automaker has reached the end of its slump, and it’s not just because of the fresh sheet metal on the way.

August Hyundai sales rose 8 percent in August, year over year. Equally as important, this increase came as fleet deliveries shrunk by 30 percent, boosting the profitability of that group of vehicles. May and June also saw the automaker post a year-over-year sales gain.

Currently, there’s a new Santa Fe Sport arriving on dealer lots, though it now carries the name Santa Fe. The old Santa Fe (now Santa Fe XL) three-row crossover soldiers on just for the coming model year before its replacement by a larger vehicle with a wholly new name. As Hyundai doesn’t split the sales reporting on these two, there’s no way to parse the popularity of the brawnier newcomer.

Elsewhere in the lineup, the compact Tucson seems to know no ceiling, as its sales rose 19 percent compared to last August. Year to date, it’s up 27.7 percent. The subcompact Kona, the first new addition to the lineup in some time, began arriving in late February and last month surpassed sales of the Toyota C-HR and Ford EcoSport. That infusion helps offset declines by passenger cars like the Sonata midsize sedan, which stands to gain a revamped successor sometime in 2019.

Interestingly, compact Elantra sales are up ever so slightly on a monthly and year-to-date basis, and there’s a refreshed 2019 model ready to go. Whether or not the sedan’s new front and rear design, as well as tweaked content, bring more customers into the model remains to be seen. It’s hard to be optimistic in this segment. The same goes for the second-generation Veloster — a revamped model we didn’t expect to see — though its volume hardly adds much to the overall tally. Every little bit helps, we suppose.

Having a fresh-looking lineup is nice, but it’s crossovers and SUVs that make or break automakers these days. With this in mind, it would be surprising to not see Hyundai beat last year’s sales tally by the end of 2018, if only by a small margin. Next year’s introductions, which include both the Santa Fe XL replacement and an A-segment crossover, should set the brand’s recovery in stone. If it can’t, what can?

[Images: Hyundai]

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21 Comments on “Are We Witnessing the Beginning of Hyundai’s Recovery?...”


  • avatar
    salmonmigration

    I predict the Seoulburban will sell very well here in the states. It looks great and it’ll carve itself a niche alongside the outdated Explorer and Pilot, and the presumably crappy new Traverse.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I guess I don’t follow Hyundai very closely, but was surprised to learn that they only offered two flavors of crossover prior to the Kona arrival. You would think with the sales skewed toward crossovers so dramatically over the last few years that sales would be down much further to be honest.

    I would think their fortunes continue to rebound in direct correlation to the number of lifted hatchback models they have on the lot.

    • 0 avatar
      Coolcar2

      Before the Kona they sold the Tucson, Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe (3-row) CUVs, so they had three options in size which is similar to the competitors in the segment.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Bigger problem has been improper packaging/sizing of their CUV offerings and inadequate supply.

        Sales of the Tucson has risen as Hyundai has allocated more supply to the US market, but still could use more (same holds for the Kona where Europe gets a larger allocation).

  • avatar
    labelnerd

    With the sedan market cavitation, Hyundai has done themselves no favors by producing sedans like the Sonata that continues to have constant recalls and problems……witness the engine issues. When the secret extended warranty on our 2013 runs out at 120,000 miles, if the car makes it that long, the car will be nixed from our fleet.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Yea, I foolishly rushed into the purchase of a ’13 Optima SXL this spring… been OK for me aside from the dismal gas mileage, but I’m seriously considering getting out of it next spring/summer for the same reasons.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Why did you buy an Optima? Thought an Accord or Mazda 6 from that age would be good alternatives.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          I was not in a good place mentally or emotionally at the time of purchase, and I needed a car fast. At the time, the smart buy would have been a used Civic Turbo. However, after a lot of buyer’s regret research, I think my next car will be a current Accord Hybrid. Hoping the sales slide continues, precipitating a good deal next summer. Coilovers and bigger wheels will dial its looks in and stock width tires should keep fuel economy in check. Goal here is low operating cost and peace of mind without sacrificing automotive enjoyment.

  • avatar
    xtoyota

    Sales started to decline after they fired John Krafcik. BIG mistake

  • avatar
    gasser

    I like everything that I’ve read about the new Santa Fe. Saw one in the flesh and was happy with the appearance. If they put the older 3.3 liter in it, instead of the turbo 4, I would be a buyer.

    • 0 avatar
      ppxhbqt

      Not happening. Rumor is a new 2.5L GDI four will become the new base engine for 2020 and a turbo version of that, not a 2.0L, will become the optional engine and most likely replace the 3.3L V6 as the optional engine for the Sorento, as the V6 is imported. Not guaranteed though, as the Telluride will have some kind of V6 and be built in West Point and I’d assume the same will be true for the Palisade and that it will be built in Montgomery, though might mean some Elantra production moved to Monterrey with the Accent, Rio, and Forte.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        The new 2.5L is not a rumor as Hyundai has already done the tooling to manufacture the engine at its Alabama plant.

        Remains to be seen if the Palisade will be built at the ‘Bama plant (makes sense), but unless Hyundai expands the capacity of the plant, as you stated, that would mean moving Elantra production to Kia’s Mexico plant – which would also mean building the Santa Cruz there as well (as it will share a platform).

  • avatar
    Carrera

    Yeah I saw the new Santa Fe and to me it look like a much more expensive vehicle..like a fancy Infiniti. Not a big fan of the 4 cylinder engine though. Optional should be a V6. As for their cars. They sell, but heavy on incentives. My coworker just bought a brand new Elantra Value Edition ( sunroof, 16 inch fancy rims, 6 speakers, apple/Android car play) for 16,300 plus tax. Hard to find anyone else offering this much car for that kind of money. He has 360,000 hwy miles on his 2006. Still going strong mechanically but cosmetically and trim wise falling apart.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Some international perspective: The Koreans are officially outselling the Japanese in Russia as of this year, the Kia Rio is the current #1 best seller in the country, the Solaris (Accent) is often in the top 3. The top selling crossover in the country is the subcompact Accent-based “Creta,” which we happened to rent for 9 days. It makes the top 10 list overall as well. The general trend in Russia is also towards increasing numbers of crossovers, but for now the Korean sedans are killing it as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Vipul Singh

      The Creta (ix25 in China) is very successful here in India, too. It regularly does more than 10000 units a month, which is amazing for a vehicle in its price class (the equivalent of USD 20k – which is high in relation to the country’s income levels).

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      There are a bunch of markets where the Koreans have a commanding marketshare over the Japanese (even if not to the extent of Russia where they outsell the Japanese altogether).

      The EU, India, Israel, Chile, etc.

  • avatar
    arach

    I bought my first Hyundai 2 years ago. Got 43% off MSRP with 7k miles and 6 months on it.

    I thought “Man Hyundais are SWEEETLY undervalued”

    So my wife needs a new car now, and I’m like “off to Hyundai we go!”

    But WTH? They aren’t cheap anymore. They are holding their values better than almost anything else we look at . You can barely find a 6 year old santa fe with 100k miles under $20k… but you can readily find the more expensive durangos, explorers, etc.. Even my sedan, I put 40k miles on it, and trade in value is supposedly only $3k less than I paid 26 months ago?

    How does the lowly hyundai start holding such strong values in the used market? URGH!

    Frustrating.

    They are no longer on our radar because we can no longer justify the value proposition on a Hyundai, while just 2 years ago its about all we could justify.

    Thats a huge shift.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    New Hyundai SUVs are looking great…

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