It's a sign of Hyundai's rising confidence that it can even think about building new assembly plants in Europe and North America. After its merger with Kia, Hyundai had huge debts and vast amounts of unused production capacity.
Now, sales are rising, and the debt - though still sizable - is down. Now, Hyundai has returned to its traditional expansion mode. If combined sales in each market top 500,000 units, the company will build the plants, said Lee Chung Goo, Hyundai's president of research and development. Joint sales are running about 450,000 a year in Europe and North America.
Hyundai hopes to boost sales by expanding its product lineup. In September, for example, it will introduce the Santa Fe, a four-wheel-drive sport-utility styled at Hyundai's California design studio. The Granduer XG sedan, which would compete against the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, also might be sold in the United States. But it's questionable whether Hyundai will have success with the Equis, a $60,000 luxury sedan the automaker says it wants to introduce in the United States late next year. 'There is a lot of competition in this area, and we would not expect to sell large numbers,' Lee said. 'Korea is still the prime market for this type of vehicle because so many executives have drivers.'
In Europe, Hyundai will test demand for its Highland off-road vehicles, first shown in concept form at last year's Seoul Motor Show. A production version is expected to debut at the Paris auto show in September.