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Kia may overtake Hyundai at home

Automaker to launch K9, K3, TAM to expand local market shares


Kia Motors Corp. has been in close competition with its affiliate Hyundai Motor Co. in domestic sales, narrowing the gap between them in market share.

Hyundai Motor Group is focusing on the possibility that Kia will catch up with Hyundai within one year in terms of monthly market share ― for sales of sedans and sport utility vehicles ― domestically for the first time.

Though the gap between the two automakers is more than 10 percentage points in Korea for all kinds of models, Kia is estimated to come close to Hyundai in sales excluding commercial vehicles.

Hyundai and Kia grabbed 45.1 percent and 32.2 percent of the local market in August, according to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association.

But the figure included sales of commercial vehicles, KAMA data showed.

While their market share including commercial vehicles stood at 45.2 and 33.2 percent in 2010, the figures for sales of only sedans and SUVs were “39.6 and 35.7 percent.”

On a monthly basis, Hyundai and Kia have been selling about 41,500 units and 36,600 units on average this year in the domestic market.

The gap for sales of sedans and SUVs have continued to narrow ― 22.9 percentage points in 2007, 17 percentage points in 2008, 15.4 percentage points in 2009 and 3.9 percentage points in 2010.

Automobile dealers attributed Kia’s noteworthy sales performance in the local market to growing popularity of four models ― K5, K7, Sorento R and Sportage R.
Kia Motors’ Sportage R
Kia Motors’ Sportage R

Kia Motors has been successful in attracting Korean consumers by launching cars with innovative designs after the company scouted Peter Schreyer, a car designer known for helping to create the New Beetle and the Audi TT, in 2006.

But Hyundai Motor officials and some automobile dealers downplay the possibility that Kia will overtake Hyundai in sales.

Skepticism includes that Kia falls behind Hyundai in production capacity and brand image.

“Some purchasers of Kia cars have to wait two or three months to see their products due to the weaker production capacity,” a local dealer said.

Executives of Hyundai Motor Group, however, are allegedly taking the situation seriously.

Should Hyundai be overtaken by Kia at home, the automaker will see its brand image as the long-standing No. 1 carmaker of Korea undermined and overseas sales damaged.

“It is quite interesting whether Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Mong-koo and his only son Eui-sun, CEO of Kia Motors, will tolerate the scenario,” a dealer said.

As an epoch-making series, Kia is poised to launch K9, a V8-powered premium luxury sedan, as early as in the first quarter of 2012.

K9, which will be an updated model of the Opirus sedan, is said to slot right into the market void between Hyundai’s Genesis sedan and Hyundai’s Equus sedan.
Hyundai Motor’s Tucson ix
Hyundai Motor’s Tucson ix

Kia’s K5 and K7 have closely been competing with Hyundai’s Sonata and Grandeur. Kia’s Sorento R and Sportage R also do with Hyundai’s Santa Fe and Tucson ix.

In addition, Kia is set to launch K3, an upgraded model of the Forte sedan, to compete with Hyundai’s best-selling Avante sedan.

There are speculations that the automotive group is considering delaying launching K3 from its earlier schedule of 2012 to 2013 in an alleged bid to curb Kia’s rapid sales growth.

Before unveiling of K9 and K3, Kia is set to launch sales of the TAM, an upgraded model of the Morning compact vehicle, later this year. The company has the yearly sales target of 60,000 units.

Hyundai and Kia plan to launch about five and nine models, respectively, by the end of next year.

The affiliated companies unveiled the new i40 and all-new Pride subcompact, respectively, last month.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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