Lee Jong-hyuk and Lee Eun-joo
The combined share of South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. and its sister company Kia Motors Corp. in the U.S. sport utility vehicle (SUV) market hit a seven-year high in the first quarter of this year, raising hopes for a recovery in their overall sales in the U.S., where SUV models are popular.
According to multiple sources from the industry on Sunday, Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors sold a combined 155,082 units of SUV models in the U.S. in the first three months of this year, taking up 8 percent of total SUV shipments in the country, which is the highest since a record 10 percent in 2011. SUV sales also accounted for the largest 53.8 percent of total Hyundai and Kia sales in the January-March period.
Hyundai Motor accounted for 3.9 percent of total SUV sales in the U.S., the highest compared to its annual share since it advanced into the market in 2000 with its flagship Santa Fe SUV model. The automaker’s SUV sales, in particular, accounted for more than half (50.1 percent) of its total sales for the first time in the first quarter ended March.
Hyundai Motor’s SUV sales made up 26.2 percent of its total sales in 2016 and then climbed to 36.2 percent of total sales in 2017 and 45.2 percent in 2018. By model, sales of the Tucson and the Santa Fe jumped 3.4 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively, in the January-March period of this year from a year ago. More than 65,000 units of Kona SUVs have been sold in the U.S. since its release last year.
Encouraged by the latest SUV sales in the U.S. Hyundai Motor plans to the Kona Electric and its largest-ever SUV Palisade in the country in the second half of this year to accelerate the growth in sales in the world’s second largest auto market after years of losing ground.
Overall market share of Kia Motors in the U.S. SUV market, which had been on the downward spiral since 2011, also recovered to 4.1 percent in the first quarter of this year, which is higher than last year’s market share of 4 percent. In particular, sales of Kia Motors’ new SUV Telluride reached 5,395 units in just two months of release, attributing to overall share increase.
Brisk sales of Kia Motors’ Telluride are boding well for the sale of Hyundai Motor’s Palisade that will be launched in the U.S. later this year because both cars share the same platform.