DETROIT (Reuters) -- Hyundai Motor Co. expects to set a company record for annual U.S. sales next week, and to increase from there in 2011, amid gradual industry growth, its top U.S. executive said today.
Hyundai Motor America President and CEO John Krafcik said he expects U.S. auto industry sales to rise to 12.3 million vehicles in 2011, up from about 11.3 million this year, almost purely from sales to retail customers.
"As we look at how heavy the industry went to the fleet market to keep sales up this year, it is pretty amazing," Krafcik told reporters today at a Hyundai facility near Ypsilanti, Mich. "We are not going to have that next year."
Krafcik said the increase in 2011 would amount to a 10 percent rise in retail sales for the industry. That mark will be hard to reach, with retail sales closely tied to housing starts and home equity in the United States, which remain uncertain amid high unemployment, he said.
"That is asking a lot," Krafcik said.
Hyundai, which has been introducing new versions of its vehicles, including a Sonata sedan, expects to top 500,000 in U.S. sales by mid-December and end 2010 with a 4.8 percent market share.
Krafcik said the 2011 sales goal would be "more than that." He also said it would be hard to increase U.S. market share much in 2011 due to company production capacity limits.
Hyundai sold a record 467,047 light vehicles in the U.S. in 2007.
The automaker has been hitting maximum production capacity in the United States, with sales up 21 percent through the first 10 months of 2010, and will have similar limits next year, Krafcik said.
The automaker added about 100,000 vehicles of U.S. capacity this year, reaching about 400,000 vehicles by shifting production of Santa Fe SUVs to a Kia plant.
"I think it is fair to say we will probably be production constrained next year as well," Krafcik said.