ORLANDO -- Hyundai Motor Co. plans to ramp up production at its Ulsan, South Korea, factory to meet rising demand for its all-new Tucson crossover, U.S. chief John Krafcik said.
In December, Hyundai introduced a new-generation Tucson with a sportier body design and drivetrain in an attempt to appeal to singles and young couples, Krafcik, who is CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said an interview at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention.
Hyundai's U.S. retailers saw a 128 percent year-over-year improvement in January.
“We're going to see a huge jump this year,” Krafcik said without disclosing projections. U.S. demand for the Tucson fell from 52,000 in 2006 to just over 15,000 last year.
With dealer inventory low, Hyundai plans to step up Tucson production in March, he said. “We'll ramp it up as long as necessary to satisfy market demand,” Krafcik said.
Krafcik also said Hyundai is benefitting more than any other brand from Toyota Motor Corp.'s safety difficulties. “A lot of customers look at Hyundai and Toyota together, and much more frequently than before, they're picking Hyundai,” Krafcik said after speaking Monday at an American International Automobile Dealers Association luncheon.
He declined to estimate how many new customers Hyundai might pick up following Toyota's well-publicized recall crisis.
Hyundai, one of the few brands to boost U.S. sales last year, posted a 24 percent gain in January. Toyota-brand sales fell 19 percent.
Hyundai also is hoping for an increase this year in U.S. sales of its mid-size Sonata, the company's best-selling domestic model, he said.
U.S. sales of the Sonata have increased steadily since the vehicle first came to the United States in 1989. Sales of the car peaked at 149,513 in 2006, then fell for two years before rising 2 percent to 120,028 units last year.