According to conventional wisdom, the looming earthquake-related vehicle shortages at Toyota and Honda create a golden opportunity for high-flying Hyundai to increase sales and market share.
But Hyundai executives aren't so sure.
"We really don't have the ability to boost sales beyond the current levels. We're kind of tapped out at this point," Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik said in an interview.
Both Hyundai and corporate cousin Kia have been hot, but they face capacity constraints of their own.
Hyundai is coming off its best U.S. sales month ever. The Korean brand sold 61,873 vehicles in March, up 32 percent from the same month last year. Kia also posted its best U.S. sales month, up 45 percent to 44,179 vehicles in March.
"Kia and Hyundai are both on a roll and they are totally unaffected by this," said Bob Page, a Toyota dealer in Southfield, Mich. "It gives them a tremendous opportunity to get some share. They're going to have a leg up on all of the major Japanese manufacturers."
But the two Korean brands have among the lowest days-supply of vehicles in the industry. Kia was the lowest on April 1 with a 22-day supply according to the Automotive News Data Center. Hyundai dealers had a 36-day supply -- well below the 60-day supply that is considered ideal.
And Krafcik says Hyundai is reluctant to open the production spigot for fear that any slip in quality could halt its momentum.
"It could be a very dangerous thing to turn that production knob further to the right to take advantage of this current situation and inadvertently cause a big quality issue," he said. "We're a much more mature company now than perhaps we may have been in situations like this in the past. We're in it for the long haul."
As it is, Hyundai and Kia are running full shifts, plus overtime, at their U.S. plants. Hyundai's plant in Montgomery, Ala., aims to squeeze out 10 percent more Sonata and Elantra sedans this year than its 300,000-unit straight-time capacity, Hyundai spokesman Robert Burns told Bloomberg.
"We've been fortunate," Burns said. "Our parts development team is closely monitoring all our suppliers, but at this point there's been no disruption."
Kia's plant in West Point, Ga., started extended weekday shifts and Saturday shifts last year and expects that to continue for the foreseeable future.
"The Koreans' exposure to Japanese suppliers is obviously much lower, but it's too early to say they won't feel some impact," Michael Robinet, vice president of IHS Automotive, told Bloomberg.
"The industry is still working off inventory of parts made before the earthquake. We haven't seen the full impact."