LAS VEGAS -- Jose Munoz isn't new to NADA make meetings, but his first as CEO of Hyundai Motor America yielded more excitement than he's accustomed to.
When dealers got a taste of new products that are in the pipeline during the meeting, applause broke out, said Munoz, who joined Hyundai last year. He came from Nissan Motor Co., where he most recently was chief performance officer and chairman of Nissan China.
He joined Hyundai at a time when the Korean automaker was revamping its lineup with a batch of new utility vehicles such as the three-row Palisade and the compact Venue crossover. The brand also is fortifying its cars with the redesigned Sonata.
"There was a big applause. I've been around for a few years on NADA meetings, and sometimes, as you know, it is difficult to get excitement," Munoz told Automotive News on Monday after the meeting during the NADA Show here. "I got to tell you that there were two big applauses: When [Hyundai Motor America COO] Brian Smith presented the new Elantra and the refreshed Santa Fe. It was terrific and unsolicited, so I'm really, really, really happy today."
The Elantra was freshened for the 2018 model year but is due for a redesign. Sales were down 12.6 percent for the compact sedan last year on 175,094 deliveries. The new model could arrive this year as a 2021 model.
The refreshed Santa Fe could build on the momentum of the current model, which was redesigned for the 2019 model year. Santa Fe sales jumped 8.8 percent in 2019 to 127,373 units.
Hyundai's total U.S. sales last year grew 3 percent to 688,771 vehicles -- its best year since 2016. Utility-vehicle sales grew 20 percent to a record 368,160 units delivered.
Munoz said: "Now that we have the freshest newest product portfolio in the industry, particularly with SUVs, we are getting ready for the next step. First is going to be bringing more state-of-the-art product."
The automaker has committed to investing $87 billion over the next five years in areas such as electrification and autonomous vehicles. Munoz pointed to the Hyundai Motor Group's $4 billion joint venture with supplier Aptiv as one example.
The companies said in joint release last year that the venture will advance the design, development and commercialization of Level 4 and 5 autonomous technologies. The companies said the plan is to begin testing fully driverless systems this year and "have a production-ready autonomous driving platform available for robotaxi providers, fleet operators and automotive manufacturers in 2022."
On the retail front, Munoz said the brand isn't looking to add more dealers.
"We believe that even though we have between 200 to 400 dealers less than our competitors, we don't want to get over-dealered. We want our dealers to get better throughput," Munoz said. "[This] is going to help their profitability], so they will be able to invest and try to take the customer-satisfaction scores to a much higher level than where we are today."