LOS ANGELES — A funny thing happened to Hyundai on the way to selling 1 million units a year in the United States. The feisty Korean carmaker hit a brick wall.
The grand plan to get to a million by 2010? No chance. Now Hyundai's overreaching bosses in Seoul have gone from pushy to panicky.
Korea's reshuffling of managers at Hyundai Motor America is getting monotonous. The revolving door has led to a chaotic strategy that has dealers dazed and confused.
"It will be very hard to get a person to come work with them," said Bill Underriner, president of Underriner Motors of Billings, Mont. "The team is always changing."
This year's sales goal is 512,000, slashed from 555,000. But dealers are behind last year's pace, when full-year sales were 455,520. That's a long way from a million.
U.S. execs keep changing tactics, with moves that smack of anxiety and indecision. Hyundai's latest reversal is to bring back dealer ad associations — just nine months after getting rid of them.
Hyundai also plans to increase ad spending dramatically in 2008. Sales chief Dave Zuchowski says Hyundai will run commercials during the Super Bowl for the first time next year, at a cost of as much as $2.7 million for a 30-second spot.
"You'll see a significant double-digit increase" in Hyundai's ad spending next year, he said.
Hyundai spent an estimated $549.2 million in measured media in 2006. It will spend about the same in 2007.
The bottom line for Hyundai: The United States is not as easy a market as it once looked.