Hyundai says it hasn’t made a decision one way or the other, but a South Korean publication claims company officials are considering a huge U.S. production push, all designed to reverse falling sales.
Reported by Seoul Economic Daily, the tentative plan (leaked by anonymous industry officials) is all about getting more utility vehicles into the hands of American buyers. It would see U.S.-market Tucson and Kona crossovers, currently built in Korea, move assembly to Montgomery, Alabama. A pickup truck would follow.
Looking at U.S. sales numbers, there’s clearly a need for Hyundai do something drastic. The brand’s sales fell 15.2 percent in October, with year-to-date sales down 13.1 percent.
With traditional passenger cars flaming out, it’s up to crossovers and SUVs to build that rosy future. Unfortunately, Hyundai often can’t get enough of them. Speaking recently with Reuters, which carried the Seoul Economic Daily report, Hyundai’s vice president of corporate and product planning, Michael J. O‘Brien, said the hot-selling Tucson was “short of supply.”
He also hinted that the subcompact Kona, due to arrive early next year or late this year, might not remain Korean-built. Through the end of October, sales of the compact Tucson have already topped the volume seen in all 12 months of 2016. The report states the Tucson would join the Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport (as well as the Elantra and Sonata) in Montgomery in 2021.
Should the plan come to fruition, Hyundai’s Alabama production capacity would grow from 380,000 vehicles per year to 450,000.
“We are always considering the possibilities of all products in individual markets,” the company said in a statement.
A year ago, Hyundai announced a plan to revamp its crossover lineup for greater U.S. appeal. Part of that plan involves a slightly larger next-generation Tucson. Meanwhile, the Santa Fe Sport will gain a dose of ruggedness, with the range-topping Santa Fe growing larger and receiving a new name. In the hopes of milking some extra sales from its two largest vehicles, Hyundai has announced a value package for the 2018 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport.
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