Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea’s largest automaker, is targeting sales gains in Europe next year as a new version of the i10 small car adds to a regional car-market revival.
“We see a number of new opportunities for our business” in 2014, Allan Rushforth, chief operating officer at the Hyundai Europe division, said yesterday at a press briefing in the Frankfurt suburb of Offenbach. “2013 was a year of transition for our brand,” with investments in production and other operations now “starting to deliver positive results.”
Hyundai and its Kia unit were the only mass-market car brands to post sales growth in Europe last year, when a recession in countries sharing the euro led to a fifth annual industrywide contraction. Growth at Hyundai has come to a halt in 2013 as the Seoul-based company shifted production to its plant in Izmit, Turkey, from India to retool for the new i10.
By next year, 90 percent of Hyundai vehicles sold in Europe will be made in the region, Rushforth said. The Izmit plant can now make 200,000 vehicles a year, while Hyundai’s factory in Nosovice, Czech Republic, can build 300,000.
European sales growth will be limited as Hyundai strategy emphasizes gaining repeat business, Rushforth said.
“We used to be a conquest brand,” with most customers first-time buyers, he said in an interview. “We will shift focus to retain business,” especially by expanding vehicle financing that encourages customers to return.
Hyundai’s 10-month deliveries in Europe fell 1.6 percent to 360,900 vehicles, according to the Brussels-based trade group ACEA. The decline was less than the market’s 3.1 percent contraction in the period.
The carmaker plans to maintain its market share in Europe at 3.5 percent in 2014, he said. Based on company projections for 2013, that would be the third year in a row at that level. Hyundai estimates that industrywide sales in the region will rise about 3 percent next year.
“The European car market is challenging,” and it will remain a “competitive environment in the months to come,” Rushforth said.
The i10, equipped with a more spacious interior and tighter suspension than its predecessor, entered showrooms in November after making its debut at the Frankfurt auto show in September. The i10 competes with Volkswagen AG’s Up! city car.
Hyundai, which plans 22 new models by 2017 to achieve a 5 percent European market share by the end of the decade, may also offer as many as 1,000 of the new-generation Genesis sedan in the region next year, Rushforth said. The car is Hyundai’s second most-expensive vehicle, and competes with Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s 5-Series and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz E-Class models.