South Korean automakers exported a record number of vehicles to the United States last year, fueled by consumer demand for full-sized cars, an industry report showed Tuesday.
According to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), exports by the country’s two largest original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) most likely surpassed $12 billion last year.
“From January through November, exports by Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. had already surpassed the all-time high reached in 2012, with sales numbers exceeding $11 billion,” the KAMA report said. It added that with average monthly shipments in the fourth quarter reaching $1.2 billion, it is almost certain a new export record has been set.
The increase is noteworthy since the two OEMs have set up large production facilities in the world’s second largest car market, reducing the need to ship cars from South Korea. Hyundai and Kia have built production lines in the U.S. states of Alabama and Georgia, each with annual production capacities of 300,000 vehicles. These facilities churn out Elantra, Sonata and Optima models, as well as some crossover utility vehicles.
KAMA claimed that the rise can be attributed to strong sales of full-sized cars by Hyundai and Kia that are not being produced at the U.S. plants. The two sister companies, main units of one of the world’s top five automotive conglomerate Hyundai Motor Group, have been diversifying their product line and now field flagship and near premium-sedans such as the Equus, Genesis, Azera and Cadenza in the United States. Kia plans to start selling the K900 premium sedan starting this year.
It said sales of these cars made up 3.44 percent of all Hyundai and Kia cars sold in the U.S., up from 2.78 percent in the previous year.
“The price competitiveness, technology and various amenities found in South Korean higher-end models are appealing to a growing number of consumers and contributing to more sales,” a Hyundai Motor Group representative said.
He said with the K900 and new Genesis sedan reaching U.S. consumers this year, every effort will be made to expand its market share.
The K900, sold in South Korea as the K9 and in some overseas markets as the Quoris, made its U.S. debut at last year’s L.A. Auto Show, while the brand new Genesis is making its global appearance at the North American International Auto Show underway in Detroit. (Yonhap News)