Hyundai America CEO Not Concerned About Toyota, Honda Resurgence

Over the past two years, Hyundai has upped its game with new models and edgy styling in an effort to distinguish itself from the competition and increase sales. The strategy has paid off with record sales.

Now, with Toyota and Honda poised to recapture market share lost as a result of the Japan earthquake, Hyundai plans to launch a six-cylinder Azera sedan and a three-door variant of its popular Veloster crossover.

Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik likes the strategic move. In a recent interview, Krafcik said, “We have demand in excess of our ability to supply, for almost all of our models right now. With the Veloster and especially with the Azera, you’re really going to see this focus on design pay off.”

The Korean automaker has seen its share of the U.S. market increase by 0.5 percentage point over the last year.  Toyota and Honda have seen their shares drop 2.5 percent and 1.5 percent respectively, in large part because of inventory shortages caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Honda and Toyota have now returned to full production and are aggressively targeting the U.S. market. Honda has increased production of its popular Civic compact model and Toyota will begin selling a refreshed Camry sedan this month. senior analyst Jessica Caldwell says Toyota and Honda “will be more aggressive in the final months of the year.”

Krafcik said he is not worried about the revitalized efforts of the Japanese rivals. In response to the claim that Hyundai benefitted from the production disruptions caused by the March 11 quake, Krafcik says, “Even without those issues, we still think our share of demand would be higher than our actual ability to deliver the volume.”

The three-door Hyundai Veloster hatchback is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. this month and will target motorists in their 20s. Later this year, Hyundai will launch the 2012 Azera six-cylinder sedan, aimed at the full-size car market which includes the Toyota Avalon and a number of models from Detroit’s Big Three automakers.

Krafcik said he feels these new models, along with the refreshed 2012 Santa Fe SUV, will ensure continued gains for Hyundai well into next year.

Research by Strategic Vision Incorporated found that about 17 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed said they would “definitely” consider purchasing a Hyundai vehicle. Ten years ago, only 1 percent of respondents said they would definitely consider a Hyundai.

Hyundai saw its U.S. sales grow by 34 percent from 2008 to 2010. Through August, Hyundai’s U.S. sales increased 21 percent, and the automaker is on track to sell upwards of 650,000 units to American consumers by year’s end.

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