The Hyundai Sonata Sales Mystery
I'm not sure if it's a result of a long Halloween hangover or what, but as I write this, none of the traditional top-six U.S. auto sellers have yet to report their October sales figures. On the other hand, that does allow us to take a deeper-than-normal look at what's going on with the rest of the crowd, especially Hyundai and Kia. The short story: Excellent sales for nearly everyone'”with the odd exception of the Hyundai Sonata.
Sonata Sales Down 18 Percent from September
First a disclaimer: Hyundai recently reported record third-quarter profits, and the company overall just set an all-time sales record for the month of October, racking up a 38 percent improvement over the same month in 2009. In fact, Hyundai has now sold more vehicles in the first 10 months of this year than it did in all of the previous year. So it's not like the automaker looks to be in any kind of serious trouble. Yet it does seem odd to me that Sonata sales fell from 20,639 units in September to "only" 17,505 last month, representing a month-to-month decline of nearly 18 percent.
This isn't the first time Sonata's monthly sales have swung back and forth by thousands of units, but when I talked to the company's PR folks in the past, they chalked it up to the influence of the 2010 Hyundai Sonatas that were still lurking around on dealership lots, combined with changes to production capacity. It will be interesting to compare the Sonata numbers to those of the mainstream mid-sizers, but that will have to wait a day.
For now, it's notable that the all-new 2011 Volkswagen Jetta, a conceivable competitor to the new Sonata, had a major impact for Volkswagen. October still saw plenty of 2010 models going out the door, but the two combined to drive overall Jetta sedan sales up by 41.6 percent.
Hyundai's Luxury Outlook
With the company on the verge of launching its first truly premium luxury model'”the Hyundai Equus'”execs have to be relatively happy with the October performance of the car currently at the top of their lineup. The Hyundai Genesis found 3,230 customers last month, representing an all-time monthly record, a 34 percent leap over last year's October numbers, and the 15th consecutive month of year-over-year sales.
That being said, however, my take on Hyundai's up-market plans isn't overly optimistic. Despite its high content and relatively low price, the Equus' exterior is distinctly old-school Hyundai'”except for the character line along its sides that looks as if it were lifted directly from the Buick LaCrosse. I'm thinking consumers are going to be underwhelmed when they see the vehicle, especially if they were expecting the kind of dynamic design cues showcased by the Sonata.
Another Record for KiaHyundai's corporate cousin, Kia, scored big in October, too, setting its own record for the month based on a 38.7 percent sales leap over October 2009. The 2011 Kia Sorento was again the driver here, cresting the 10,000-unit-mark and outselling the previous-generation model's October 2009 performance by almost 820 percent'”yes, 820 percent. The Kia Soul seems to have established itself in the marketplace as well, with October sales just about tripling compared to the same month last year and reaching 6,137 customers. The automaker also reports that demand for the all-new Kia Sportage continues to outpace supply.
Based on this momentum, I'm thinking that future comparisons between Kia and Hyundai sales should be quite interesting, with the former prepping the launch of its new Kia Optima family and the Kia Forte five-door and the latter waiting on the Equus, new Hyundai Elantra and redone Hyundai Santa Fe.
Short Takes: VW, Subaru
In addition to a start for the Jetta, the big news is that Volkswagen's lineup of TDI clean-diesel products continue to find some customer traction, with those vehicles representing 25 percent of the automaker's October volume. Overall, VW sales were up 17.9 percent. As for Subaru, the brand clocked a record-setting October for both overall sales and sales of the Subaru Outback, Subaru Forester and Subaru Legacy, with even the Subaru Impreza seeing a nice boost last month. All signs here point to the best-ever year for Subaru in America, with major news expected at the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show.
All signs also point to impressive October sales for the usual suspects, and we'll deal with them tomorrow.