This year, Hyundai Motor America plans to add 28 dealerships. Half of those will be in the West, with California getting the lion's share.
The automaker will continue to focus on the West for the next three years. In that same period, the company will add stores in the South and a few in the East and Midwest. Last year, Hyundai added 48 franchises in the United States for a total of 576 as of Jan. 1.
Hyundai has earmarked a considerable investment for California because its sales in that market collapsed during the 1990s.
"From 1995 through 1998, our sales in the western U.S. virtually imploded," said Bob Cosmai, Hyundai's vice president of national sales. "We nearly had a collapse of our dealers. You didn't see too many Hyundais in Orange County."
Nationwide, Hyundai sales rebounded from a low of 90,217 units in 1998 to 346,235 last year.
But things got so bad out West that Hyundai did not have a dealership in the San Fernando Valley for four years. California consumers were turned off by Hyundai's chronic quality problems, Cosmai said.
By contrast, cost-conscious buyers in the Northeast were attracted by Hyundai's low prices. In New England, Hyundai's strong sales have brought its market share within range of Nissan.