LOS ANGELES -- Strong sales of the Sonata sedan and Santa Fe crossover helped Hyundai stand with only two other brands in recording higher U.S. sales in January compared with January 2008.
The other two gainers were Hyundais sister brand, Kia, and Subaru.
Hyundai reported sales of 24,512 vehicles in January, a 14.3 percent increase over January 2008. Kia sales rose 3.5 percent. Combined, Hyundai and Kia were up 8.9 percent in a U.S. market that plunged 37.1 percent.
The Sonata mid-sized sedan led the way with sales of 8,508 units, up 85.5 percent from 4,587 during the same month last year. Hyundai sold 5,024 Santa Fes, up 35.2 percent from 3,716 units last year. Both overall car and light truck sales were up.
Hyundai will begin shipping the 2009 Santa Fe crossover to dealerships this week. Production began last summer at Hyundais Montgomery, Ala., plant, but delivery was delayed because of a glut of 2008s. Strong incentives and advertising helped dealers move most of the 2008 units, says Dave Zuchowski, sales chief at Hyundai Motor America.
Zuchowksi said Hyundais new Assurance program, launched in January, provided great momentum. That allows consumers to return their new Hyundai vehicles if they lose their jobs within a year. The Genesis sedan, which was named car of the year by a group of journalists in January, also attracted consumer attention.
We would have been disappointed if sales had been anything less than flat considering our disappointing sales last January, Zuchowski said.
Id love to be flat year over year, he said. Theres still so much uncertainty in the marketplace.