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Hyundai falls 4% as small cars tumble

UPDATED: 12/2/14 7:08 pm ET - Corrected

Editor's note: Bob Pradzinski, vice president of national sales at Hyundai Motor America, was incorrectly identified in an earlier version of this story.

SAN FRANCISCO -- If it’s small, it’s struggling. If it’s big, it’s doing fine.

That was the pattern in November for Hyundai Motor America, whose sales fell 4 percent on weak demand for small cars such as the Elantra and Accent.

Hyundai’s result, in a month when sales of trucks and crossovers paced the industry’s 5 percent gain, suggests that with gasoline prices below $3 per gallon in most of the U.S., consumers may be turning away from the small, fuel-sipping cars that helped Hyundai climb the sales charts over the past few years.

Sales of the Elantra compact, Accent subcompact and Veloster hatchback slid by 16 percent, 24 percent and 42 percent in November, worse than usual. Those models went into the month down a combined 7 percent for the year.

In a statement, Bob Pradzinski, vice president of national sales at Hyundai Motor America, noted that the brand faced “challenges in certain segments,” but said the newly redesigned Sonata midsize sedan and Genesis luxury sedan posted “impressive performances.”

Sonata sales surged 12 percent to 18,515 units, as sales of the Genesis sedan rose 57 percent to 2,325 units. This increase, combined with continued strength in crossover sales, sent Hyundai’s average transaction price up by 6 percent to $24,891, which was the largest increase of any brand, according to car-shopping service TrueCar.

TrueCar data also show Hyundai holding the line on incentives. Its incentives averaged $1,381 per unit in November, which was nearly $1,300 below the industry average and lower than any major brand but Subaru.

Hyundai sold 661,211 units in the first 11 months of 2014, up 1 percent.

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com

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