Things Look Up for Hyundai During Economic Downturn
New models, improved perception help the South Korean automaker grab market share
Despite the still-dour economic climate and the dent it's put in the business of most of the major automakers, Hyundai seems to be getting stronger. On the heels of an award-winning, big-splash new model -- the luxury Genesis sedan -- and the lion's share of the Cash for Clunkers business, Hyundai's August sales were up 47 percent compared with the same period last year, in a climate where total industry sales (despite the Clunkers program) were up a mere 1 percent.
Of course, Hyundai made some bold moves to pull those figures. First of all, the Genesis wasn't just a slightly more upscale version of the Sonata -- it was an audacious, bang-for-the-bucks new luxury car that could honestly compete with lower-end Lexus and Mercedes vehicles, and turned enough heads to become the most award-winning car of 2009.
And with Clunkers, Hyundai opened up its doors a full three weeks before the official start. Combined with a prescient offer to accept a return of your vehicle for up to a year should you find yourself out of work, Hyundai is positioning itself as a company that's in touch with the current realities. And it's paying off. Hyundai and Subaru are the only two companies that expect to sell more cars this year than last; add to that the fact that Hyundai has "best overall fuel efficiency" in its sights by 2015, and it's clear the company is through playing second fiddle. The question now is: Who else has enough momentum to stop it?
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