Hyundai is becoming a true rival to Toyota and Volkswagen.
"Hyundai is awesome," Honda's chief executive Takanobu Ito said in an interview in 2019. "They are undoubtedly a threat because their products are cheap, and the quality is improving." Even earlier, Toyota recognized the threat of Hyundai's improvement and its long term goals. "We're worried about them," Yukitoshi Funo, then chairman of Toyota Motor Sales USA, told journalists in 2006, "Our main competitors in the US are essentially Honda Motor, Nissan Motor and Hyundai, but Hyundai is the one we are very carefully watching."
Cut to the end of 2020, and JD Power reports that Hyundai and sister company Kia, have expanded their US market share more than any other major automaker through November.
Hyundai Motor Company's growth is a huge deal as November saw a 12 percent drop in retail sales across the board, while Kia steadily kept selling vehicles. The report comes via the Wall Street Journal, which also notes Hyundai and Kia's stock rallied after the crash earlier in 2020, ending the year outperforming stalwart automakers such as General Motors and Volkswagen AG. It seems both customers and business analysts are starting to realize Hyundai is a company to be taken seriously and is no longer simply serving the low end of the automotive market.
While many automakers will write 2020 off as a failure, history could well show last year as Hyundai's most significant turning point. The South Korean automaker capitalized on its growing reputation for its vehicles as value propositions in the pandemic's price-sensitive market while cranking up the style and build quality with a slew of new and updated vehicles such as the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Sonata. At the same time, Hyundai has started growing its N performance brand and is steadily winning journalists and enthusiasts alike with its more aggressive models.
As 2021 shapes up to be more of the same with delays on the vaccine's projected availability, Kia's ability to weather the storm while delivering quality products could be one of the few positives for the auto industry from a customer advocate point of view.