But the Korean automaker looks on track to bounce back.
We knew 2018 was likely to be a difficult year for Hyundai. The company is currently rolling out new SUVs like the 2019 Santa Fe and an all-electric version of the Kona, but it may still be a few years before the Korean automaker recovers from its past mistakes. According to a Reuters report, Hyundai has been struggling in both the US and China, the two largest auto markets in the world.
Hyundai's struggles can be attributed to a lack of SUVs, a boring design language, increased competition, and a reluctance to embrace electric cars and self-driving. The company is making moves to fix these issues, though it may be a few years before they are solved.
Back in 2009, the Hyundai and Kia sister brands ranked third in global sales after only General Motors and Volkswagen. Now, in 2018, the duo now ranks ninth overall. Part of this decline can be attributed to a lack of SUVs, just as they started to boom in popularity.
"One of our challenges back then, and I knew it would continue to be a challenge, was that the management at [headquarters] was really big on sedans," said Ed Kim, who was a Hyundai US product manager between 2004-2008. "[US] product planning staff, marketing staff really wanted more truck products, more SUVs, but in so many cases, it was very difficult to convince management," he added.
Hyundai America Chief Operating Officer Brian Smith says the company was "caught a little off guard" by the consumer shift towards larger vehicles. The company has new models on the way by 2020 to drive a "slow, steady" sales recovery but "it's going to take a few years" Smith said.
Hyundai's other big misstep was toning down its award-winning design. Four years ago, when Hyundai flew 20 US dealers to Seoul to view the all-new Sonata, the company received crickets when it pulled the wraps off the new car. Scott Fink, who owns the largest Hyundai dealership and attended the event told Reuters, "I'll never forget it. They pulled the sheet off of it and there were 20 people in the room and not one person clapped."
It appears Hyundai is turning things around, at least in the US. The new Kona Electric looks like it will be a major player in the EV market and the redesigned Santa Fe looks far more attractive than the outgoing model. Group these strong releases with the hotly-anticipated Veloster N and we like where Hyundai is heading.