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Hyundai Motor chairman urges readiness for volatile currency

Korean auto giant pledges more profit from large-sedan sales in U.S.

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Published : 2014-08-06 21:03
Updated : 2014-08-06 21:03

Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Mong-koo, who is visiting the carmaker’s U.S. operations this week, stressed readiness for currency fluctuations, especially the weakening Japanese currency.

Taking advantage of the weaker yen, Japanese carmakers like Toyota and Honda are upping their offensive in the U.S. market. Their generous cash incentives, however, are taking a direct toll on the Korean auto giant.

“We will not follow in the footsteps of our rivals (in offering more discounts),” he said during his visit to the carmaker’s U.S. headquarters in California.

“Rather than abandoning our pricing policy, we need to focus more on securing competitiveness in product quality and selling more large sedans to raise profits.”
Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Mong-koo (center) talks with Tom Kearns, chief of Kia Motors’ U.S. design center, at the carmaker’s design center in Irvine, California, Tuesday. (Hyundai Motor Group)

There was a time when Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors offered generous incentives, including cash rebates, as part of its desperate efforts to lure picky U.S. customers. The incentives sometimes doubled those of Toyota.

But thanks to its efforts for improving product quality and brand awareness, the Korean carmaker has maintained the lowest level of customer incentives in the market, even compared to its Japanese rivals.

With the competition heating up in the all-important U.S. market, the Hyundai chief also called on employees to help boost sales of the carmaker’s top-selling sedans ― the Genesis and Sonata ― which have recently been renovated.

He said that sales of these two premium sedans are also expected to help further elevate the brand awareness of the Korean carmaker globally.

The new Genesis and Sonata hit the U.S. market in May and June, respectively, driving up the carmaker’s total sales.

Sonata sales hit an all-time high of 25,195 vehicles in June. Monthly sales of the Genesis also soared to more than 2,000 vehicles in June, compared to some 800 early this year.

During the same month, midsize and large sedans made up 62.5 percent of the carmaker’s total sales in the United States.

The Korean duo aims to sell a combined 1.33 million cars in the U.S. market this year, up 6 percent from 2013.

During his visit, the Hyundai chairman also looked around the carmaker’s new head office building and an affiliated design center. He was scheduled to visit the production plants of Hyundai and Kia, located in Alabama and Georgia, respectively.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)

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