LOS ANGELES — Strong sales of the Sonata sedan and Santa Fe crossover helped Hyundai stand with only three other brands in recording higher U.S. sales last month compared with January 2008.
The other gainers were Hyundai's sister brand, Kia, Subaru and Smart.
Hyundai reported sales of 24,512 vehicles last month, 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 sold during the same month last year. Hyundai sold 5,024 Santa Fes, up 35.2 percent from 3,716 last year. Both overall car and light-truck sales were up.
Hyundai began shipping the 2009 Santa Fe crossover to dealerships last week.
Strong incentives and advertising helped dealers move most of the 2008 units, said Dave Zuchowski, sales chief at Hyundai Motor America.
Zuchowski said the Hyundai Assurance program, launched in January, provided great momentum. Hyundai Assurance allows consumers to return their new Hyundai vehicles if they lose their jobs within a year.
The Genesis sedan, named car of the year by a group of journalists in January, also gained attention.
"We would have been disappointed," Zuchowski said, "if sales had been anything less than flat, considering our disappointing sales last January."