Just 25 years ago, Hyundai was a newcomer to the U.S. automobile market. Their single model, the Excel, sold at a list price of just $4,995, which made it the second least expensive new car you could buy in the United States, behind the $3,990 Yugo GV. Hyundai moved a lot of Excels in their first year (168,882), and actually set a record for first year import model sales. Unfortunately, early buyers found out there was a reason that Excels were so cheap, and reported numerous quality problems with their vehicles. Hyundai became the butt of jokes, but took the lessons learned in the US to heart and invested heavily in improving both quality and design. They were the first automaker to offer a 10 year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty, and by 2004 the automaker had tied Honda for initial quality.
Fast forward to 2010, and Hyundai is one of the hottest automakers on the planet. The new Sonata is a stunning car, and has sold over 183,000 copies year to date. The Elantra continues to be a best seller for Hyundai, despite the fact that it hasn’t been seriously updated since 2007 (although a new model is due in 2011). The Santa Fe, refreshed for 2010, is the company’s third most popular vehicle, and has racked up awards from both the press and from the IIHS. Even their halo cars, like the uber-luxury Equus and the track-ready Genesis coupe are impressive for their singular focus. With a product portfolio like this, it really isn’t a surprise that Hyundai has exceeded 500,000 sales year to date in 2010, and projects to hit 530,000 for the full year. Better yet, most of the Hyundai’s sold in America are built in either their Montgomery, Alabama, plant or in Kia’s West Point, Georgia, plant, which means that the company is employing American workers to build their vehicles.
Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai’s executive vice president for U.S. sales, sums it up nicely:
“Hyundai’s sales continue to climb as more consumers become aware of our great products, high quality, the industry’s best warranty, and improving dealership experience. We expect our sales momentum to continue as we head into the New Year with models like the new Elantra, the first of four planned 40-mpg Hyundai vehicles in our lineup, and our premium luxury sedan, Equus, just now starting to roll into showrooms. Our future looks bright, largely due to our product renaissance.”
Hyundai has come a long way in just 25 years, and it makes me wonder what the automaker has in store for the next 25 years.