Hyundai and Kia Ride Out of 2019 With Heads Held High, and There's Two Vehicles to Thank for It

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

The other day, we told you about Subaru bucking the industry’s cooling trend to scratch out yet another record year-end sales tally. A full year of Ascent production catapulted the brand over a hurdle that, without the new model, it would have failed to clear.

Nothing beats a new three-row crossover for hiking sales, boosting ATPs, and growing margins.

It’s something the members of Hyundai Motor Group know well. Both Hyundai and Kia have a brace of crossovers to thank for the solid sales gains enjoyed in 2019.

Hyundai, which only a couple of years ago was scrambling to reverse a sudden sales slump following years of healthy increases, posted a 3 percent sales gain in 2019. Sister corporation Kia Motors recorded a 4.4 percent increase.

The Koreans’ crossover surge is almost at an end. There’s just a single small Kia crossover (the 2021 Seltos) left to join the fold, what with Hyundai’s sub-subcompact Venue now lending its tiny footprint to the nation’s dealers. Since the brand’s 100,000-vehicle plunge in 2017, Hyundai has turned the Santa Fe Sport into the new (and certainly improved) Santa Fe, kicked the old Santa Fe to the curb in favor of an all-new midsizer, and brought on board the subcompact Kona.

Kia’s stable has stayed more, well, stable, minus the addition of a new range-topping crossover of its own and a Niro sort-of crossover available in a variety of electrified flavors. Like Hyundai, its passenger car models have either undergone a revamp, or are in the process of renewal.

Individual improvements aside, both Hyundai and Kia can thank two vehicles for the 2019 sales bump: the Palisade and Telluride. The former, which first appeared on Hyundai sales sheets in June, sold 28,786 units last year, while the Telluride showed up in February and added 58,604 high-margin sales to the ledger.

The volume of both models pushed their respective builders above the bar set at the end of 2018. Without them, the year would have ended with a loss.

That said, it’s not like there aren’t longer-running nameplates with wind in their sales. The Santa Fe boosted its volume by just over 10,000 units. With a full year of sales under its belt, the Kona greatly improved on 2018’s 11 months of volume. Still, losses among Hyundai’s passenger cars (save the low-volume Ioniq and Veloster) and outgoing current-generation Tucson more than offset those gains. The Venue’s appearance came too late to have much impact.

The same situation can be found at Kia, which would have posted a decline had the Telluride not shown up. And not a vanishingly slim one, either (-5.6 percent). Only two existing Kia models earned a greater number of customers last year when compared to 2018: the subcompact Rio and perennially popular Sportage CUV.

The current year finds both Hyundai and Kia in far better shape then they were just a couple of years ago, and 2019’s showing has the potential to grow with the addition of new small-CUV volume. As for the likes of the new Sonata and upcoming Optima midsize sedans, they’ll need to move heaven and earth to sway buyers away from the likes of Camry and Accord. Certainly, the impending demise of the Ford Fusion, to say nothing of the Koreans’ wild styling, might work in their favor.

[Images: Hyundai, Kia Motors]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Whynot Whynot on Jan 09, 2020

    The Telluride is more of a Volvo XC-90 knockoff than a Range Rover knockoff (especially in the greenhouse). But that is fine because the XC-90 also looks great.

    • Cprescott Cprescott on Jan 09, 2020

      At least kia is not hideous like so many Toyoduh, Honduh, and Lexus products these days. And those hideous things from Nissan at the top of the line (applies to whatever the name of the Nissan badge-engineered luxury division is called) - oh, yeah, infiniti to mediocrity.

  • Quaquaqua Quaquaqua on Jan 09, 2020

    The interesting thing, if you dive into the sales numbers, is that the Telluride didn't really seem to take sales from other Kia vehicles. I thought sales of the Sorento would fall by quite a bit, as the Telluride is such a showstopper. But Sorento sales only fell by about 8k and the Telluride added 60k. Definitely good news for Kia. The Palisade is newer and not selling quite as well (28k so far) so honestly Hyundai can thank the Kona for its good year more than anything. That's selling a lot better.

    • Bd2 Bd2 on Jan 12, 2020

      The Telluride did around 6,500 last month whereas the Palisade did 5,600. In Canada, the Hyundai far outsold the Kia but that largely has to do w/ supply issues. The diff. btwn the 2 is in the premium buyers are paying (particularly for the top trim) over MSRP (the Telluride SX w/ the PP is commanding quite a premium). Sorento sales declined by 11% from 2018 (about 12k units), but a good part of that decline is due to being a model at the end of its life-cycle (if anything, the newer Santa Fe likely stole more sales). The 2 should be in pretty good shape for 2020. Hyundai gets a full year of Palisade sales and adds the Venue whereas Kia gets the Seltos and has plans to increase Telluride production.

  • Lou_BC Ironic, the Honda Ridgeline, a truck that every truck guy loves to hate is in 6th place.
  • 28-Cars-Later I keep forgetting I own it, but the space look on the ext cab reminds me of my 'Yota pickup of the same model year. I'm pretty sure there is some vintage of Hilux which features the same looking ext cab window (maybe '88?) its a shame these things are mostly gone and when available are $1,000,000,000 [INSERT CURRENT CURRENCY].
  • Sayahh Imagine if Ford had Toyota design and build a Mustang engine. It will last over 300k miles! (Skip turbo and make it naturally aspirated.) Maybe Yamaha will help tune it...
  • Sobhuza Trooper Isuzu's crime was to build some damn good trucks.Shame on them.
  • El scotto Listen, unless you were Lord Headly-Stempmoor or such when you got off the off the boat, boot in Canada, you got the short end of the stick. People got on the boat, these days a plane, to escape famine, becoming cannon fodder in yet another stupid war, or the government thought it was A-OK to let soldiers kill you. Juneteenth is just a way to right one of the more bad ideas in the American experiment. Instead we have commenters who were buying tater chips and diet soda at Wal-Mart and got all butt-hurt because they heard someone who wasn't speaking English. I'm going to go fix a couple of frankfurters with salsa and guacamole and wash them down with a lager or three