Hyundai's China Woes Worsened by Epidemic

  • By Ryu Jung

    December 01, 2020 13:55

    Automaker Hyundai's sales in China will probably fall below 500,000 cars this year, less than half of its heyday just four years ago.

    Hyundai said Monday that sales in China from January to October plummeted 32 percent on-year to 341,600 cars.

    The Korean car giant had been hit hard by China's unofficial boycott since 2017, compounded this year by the coronavirus epidemic. Sales peaked at 1.14 million cars in 2016 but have been falling since.

    Adding the sales of affiliate Kia in China, the total figure plunged 27 percent to 527,550 over the same period. For the whole year, it is expected to stay below 650,000, a mere third of 2016's sales.

    Since Hyundai and Kia can produce 2.1 million cars a year in China, their average factory operating rate stands at just 30 percent. As a result, their rank in the market there has fallen from third in 2006 to a poor ninth this year.

    Industry watchers believe China's unofficial boycott continues, and Hyundai and Kia's wishy-washy marketing strategy there has given local rivals with more affordable cars an edge.

    Japanese rivals have also succeeded in branding themselves as premium cars and improved performance. Honda currently ranks third in the Chinese market, up from fifth in 2016, while Toyota has risen from seventh to fourth over the four years.

    Hyundai is trying to turn things around next year by rolling out new models. It already launched a Chinese version of the Sonata mid-sized sedan and new Elantra compact (Avante in Korea). Next year it will roll out a new Tucson SUV and a Chinese-only mid-sized sedan called Mingtu as well as electric and hydrogen-powered cars. It will also target the high-end market with the Genesis brand.

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