SEOUL - Hyundai plans to keep its position as the best-selling foreign brand in Russia, although it faces challenges.
Dealers in Russia have had difficulty getting enough cars this year, partly due to global demand for Hyundai's cars. In addition, a strike at the company's assembly plants in Korea slowed production in late summer. Hyundai repeatedly faces strikes because of conflicts with its workers' union.
Russia is also a vast market to tackle, stretching across 11 time zones, and has many areas with poor roads. And Hyundai's biggest competitor in Russia is Toyota, which won't yield market share easily.
Despite these difficulties, Hyundai more than doubled sales in Russia to 68,745 units during the first nine months of 2005. That makes Hyundai Russia's largest selling foreign brand, said Sohn Jang-Won, head of Hyundai's CIS and Central Europe regional headquarters in Moscow.
This compares with Toyota/Lexus, which sold 49,117 units through September this year, Sohn said.
Four years ago most auto buyers in Russia bought Russian-made cars, but now, "with the growth of their income, Russian customers are looking for some alternative for their vehicle," Sohn said.
In 2001 Hyundai sold only 1,513 cars in Russia. This year the carmaker aims to sell 85,000 to 90,000 units.
Lada, the top selling domestic auto brand in Russia, still outsells Hyundai by large numbers. In the first eight months 270,562 out of the 834,478 cars sold in Russia were Ladas, according to JATO Dynamics. The UK-based market analysts do not yet have numbers for September.
But because Hyundai's quality has been acknowledged by independent surveys, Russians are realizing Hyundai cars are good value, Sohn said.
Also, Hyundai has established what it believes is the widest sales network among importers in Russia, with about 145 showrooms.