Hyundai U.S. chief expects launches, added output to buoy market share

Zuchowski: The 2013 result "was not unexpected, but it was still disappointing,"
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DETROIT -– Hyundai's top U.S. executive says better vehicle availability and two key product launches will end the brand's two-year market-share skid in 2014.

Dave Zuchowski, who took over as CEO of Hyundai Motor America at the start of the year, forecasts Hyundai sales of about 745,000 vehicles in 2014, with industry sales of about 15.9 million vehicles, which would give Hyundai a 4.7 percent share of the U.S. market.

Hyundai sold a record 720,783 vehicles in the U.S. market last year, but its growth was the slowest it has experienced since 2008. Hyundai also saw market share slide from a peak of 5 percent in 2011 to 4.6 percent in 2013 amid limited production capacity and tougher competition from Japanese and domestic automakers fielding newer products.

Zuchowski says the growth rate will remain below the double-digit figures the brand experienced from 2010 to 2012, but he expects Hyundai to take back some of the share it has ceded during the industry recovery.

The 2013 result "was not unexpected, but it was still disappointing," Zuchowski said in an interview at the Detroit auto show. "It was a record year, but we don't like losing market share and we know exactly what happened. 2014 is all about proving that '13 was an aberration and not the start of a new trend."

The spring debut of the redesigned 2015 Genesis sedan and the summer arrival of the redesigned Sonata will help Hyundai boost volume from last year, Zuchowski said.

Meanwhile, Hyundai's Alabama assembly plant will shift its production mix from favoring the Elantra currently to favoring the Sonata when the redesigned model goes into production, he said. Plus, the plant and Kia's plant in Georgia, which builds the Hyundai Santa Fe, should be able to churn out 9,000 to 10,000 additional units of production in 2014, Zuchowski said.

The brand had a roughly 60-day supply of vehicles in inventory to begin the year, which Zuchowski said puts the company in a better position to begin the year than in 2013.

Plus, he anticipates that Hyundai production capacity coming on line in the Czech Republic and China could free up more capacity in South Korea to potentially supply the U.S. market, though those plans are still being developed, he said.

"We think it's manageable," Zuchowski said. "We think we can outperform the market and grow share, which is critical."

You can reach Ryan Beene at rbeene@crain.com. -- Follow Ryan on Twitter


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