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Hyundai chief bets on Europe with new models

Chung calls on automaker to take on global rivals by offering more models

Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Mong-koo said the company should compete with global rivals in the sluggish European market with new car models.

Chairman Chung made the call during his visit to a car assembly line in Czech Republic. The tycoon is in Europe to inspect the main sales office of Hyundai Motor Co. and its smaller affiliate Kia Motors Corp.

Company officials said Chung stressed the importance of producing more new models that meet the needs of European drivers to overcome the current economic slowdowns and strengthen the carmaker’s market presence in the large consumer market.

“While visiting a car production plant in the Czech Republic, Chung pointed out that Hyundai and Kia beat out their Japanese rivals thanks to the efforts and devotion of all European staff members confronted with sluggish growth in the overall car market,” a press release said.
Hyundai Motor chairman Chung Mong-koo (left) encourages an employee during his visit to the company’s Czech factory on Wednesday. (Hyundai Motor)
Hyundai Motor chairman Chung Mong-koo (left) encourages an employee during his visit to the company’s Czech factory on Wednesday. (Hyundai Motor)

Hyundai Motor Group, the fifth-largest carmaker in the world, has steadily expanded its market share in Europe, reaching a record-high level last month, despite generally poor growth posted by other automotive companies.

According to industry data, the two companies sold a combined 45,911 units in August for a market share of 5.8 percent, surpassing the companies’ previous record of 5.2 percent reached in August 2010 and in April 2011.

Chung stressed that competitive models such as Hyundai’s mid-size wagon i40 and Kia’s newly-revealed Pride subcompact will spearhead the group’s growing sales and bolster its brand recognition in the European market, where consumers are tightening their belts to cope with the fiscal crisis in several countries.

The company said Chung stressed that the new i40 and Pride were developed with European consumers’ tastes in mind. “It’s necessary to promote these strategic cars to get closer to the consumers and boost sales in Europe,” the chairman was quoted as saying.

Developed at a cost of 230 billion won ($216.4 million), i40 is specifically targeted at the European market by merging the comfort of a sedan and practicality of a sport utility vehicle.

Hyundai anticipated that the new model can match the popularity of the smaller i30 that sold 95,391 units in 2009, which represents a 55.3 percent increase from the year before.

Kia’s new Pride, a three-door family hatchback released at the ongoing Frankfurt Motor Show, is also expected to be a hit in Europe, following on from the Cee’d, another hatchback subcompact made by the same company.

Hyundai and Kia want to sell a combined 698,000 units in 2011, up 12.4 percent from the previous year, the company said.

Hyundai Motor Group, meanwhile, said that Chung will also visit the Frankfurt Motor Show that runs until Sunday before returning to South Korea. 

By Kim Yon-se and Yonhap News (