By on January 8, 2020

Image: Kia Motors

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.

Image: Hyundai

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]

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28 Comments on “Hyundai and Kia Ride Out of 2019 With Heads Held High, and There’s Two Vehicles to Thank for It...”


  • avatar
    cprescott

    Saw a new Telluride today on the road at an intersection. It had all the presence that a Cadihack should have. It looked fantastic. High quality look. I was drooling. Kia and Hyundai are starting to build cars that make other manufacturers look silly.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    The new Optima is a head turner. It will have no problem going against the ugly products from the Duh sisters, Hon and Toyo.

  • avatar
    MorrisGray

    Hyundai now needs to bring on the Elantra GT N with manual!
    And Kia needs to improve the Stinger GT with the 3.8L naturally aspirated motor and offer a manual transmission with it!

  • avatar
    MorrisGray

    Yes indeed! And if they offered it with a manual transmission, it would be even better!

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    At least on paper, both the Telluride and Palisade look like tremendous bargains. Both start at around $32k, well below the ATP for vehicles sold in 2019. Aside from a stripped-out Chevy Traverse (ugh) you’ll not find a 3-row in this class for less. Hyundai has significantly reduced the BHPH feel of it’s dealers, but KIA still needs to do some work on this front. Can’t test drive any KIA at most dealers without first having a date with the four-square.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    If there were a two- or three-motor hybrid version, I might have sprung for one of these new rather than buying my used Highlander earlier this year. They really are incredibly well-done. I think I’m alone in preferring the less flashy Hyundai to the Kia, which I think looks like a garish Range Rover knockoff.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      I’d say you’re mostly alone. The Telluride is selling better. And I think the Palisade front end is an absolute mess, looks like one of those Ssangyong SUVs from decades past. Yuck.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      By any account, it’s the Palisade that’s more “flashy” (more busy styling elements) and the Telluride that is more staid in terms of design.

      Also, the Telluride doesn’t look much at all like a Range Rover (merely being boxier doesn’t = RR) and instead, has a more American “truck”-like look to it.

      The ones that actually have a resemblance to RR would be something like the Aviator (and going back to) the Ford Flex.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    If I ever have to part with my 09 Sedona, the Telluride would be on my list.

  • avatar
    monkeydelmagico

    Want me a Telluride in the worst possible way. I am not an impulsive person. Had the Kia dealership had any salesperson in it that wasn’t hell bent on wasting my time and insisting on captive finance it would be in my driveway already.

    I even tried to get to the internet manager so I wouldn’t have to actually interact with a human in person. No dice.

    Oh well. A left over CX-9 is starting to look better and better.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    There’s something about both of these vehicles’ styling that bugs me. Are the orange outlines on the Kia running lights, and do they double as the turn signals or is there a larger single bulb somewhere? The boomerang taillights don’t work and what is up with the entirety of the Palisade?

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    The telluride looks awesome but it still screams cheap range rover knockoff. Its too fake blingy…painted silver plastic trim imitating brushed aluminum and will chip away in a few years… and the hyundai is ugly. Id rather have an atlas or pilot. If you want a real luxury interior without the snob badge go cx9.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    @3800FAN: I haven’t been inside either vehicle. But the numbers say that CX-9 has a substantially smaller interior than the Telluride. If I’m buying a tank, I want it to be roomy.

    And I’ll take the “cheap Range Rover knockoff” for half the money and twice the reliability.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Palisade is superb. It exudes quality a two levels higher than it’s price.

  • avatar
    saturnotaku

    Of the two new twins, I favor the Kia. I find the Palisade’s interior to be a bit cheap-looking on anything but the highest trim level. Plus, Telluride is available with the camera system that projects a view of your blind spots when the left or right turn signal is engaged. It’s a feature my wife particularly loves and is why we’re going to hold on to our 2016 CR-V like grim death since Honda has all but abandoned the feature on its redesigned models.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      The Palisade has he same camera system but w/ the cooler/higher end display (driver’s side blind-spot image appears in the left gauge and the passenger’s side on the right gauge).

      Odd that Kia didn’t opt for the full digital gauge cluster on the Telluride when the K900 has it and F/L Cadenza and new Optima are getting it.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I’ve been seeing these everywhere especially the Telluride, they are big and good looking and people seem to really like them

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Seems we broke the reply function again.

  • avatar
    whynot

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      cprescott

      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.

  • avatar
    quaquaqua

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      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.

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