While Hyundai began making a strong appearance in the U.S. in the late 1990s, the company has been around since the late 1960s producing and selling cars. Known predominantly as a compact car manufacturer from South Korea, Hyundai’s line now sells in almost 200 different countries. The company has a well-established sales base in the U.S. but it also does extremely well in developing countries where consumers are now enjoying greater spending power.
Not known to very many, the first Hyundai cars were distributed in the U.S. through Ford as the Cortina. Since 1968, Hyundai scored second place in quality ratings by a J.D. Power and Associates study in 2004 on initial quality off the assembly line. Sales really jumped when the company started providing a 10-year warranty up to 100,000 miles on all major assemblies and parts in their cars. The company has also gone on to become well-seated in the top 100 most valuable company brands worldwide, and in 2007 Hyundai pushed out almost 4 million car sales globally. Hyundai also dabbled in some alliances and mergers, most namely with DaimlerChrysler in 2001, but the only transaction that stuck was the purchase of Kia Motors in 2000.
The combination of quality workmanship with competitive pricing provides the company a double-punch position against other brands, especially during economic tough times in the U.S. As a result, the American car brands will have to continue upping their own quality standards to compete and not lose out on cost-conscious buyers attracted to Hyundai cars.
5 Things to know about Hyundai
- Hyundai has dramatically improved its quality standards over the last couple of years. Electrical systems had been the biggest area of complaints which has promted Hyundai to change suppliers and revamp their designs. Automatic transmissions were redesigned to be much smoother and quieter and the company has invested in body integrity. These improvements have gained the the title of “most improved” automaker since 1998 (JD Powers).
- The first U.S. manufacturing plant was opened in 2005 in Montgomery, Alabama. It is a $1.4 billion facility which produces about 300,000 vehicles annually, mainly the Sonata and the Santa Fe.
- Most models will soon be produced with 6 airbags, even entry level models like the Accent.
- All models have to pass a gruelling test of 100,000 miles under extreme conditions. The company also claims that most vehicles sold from their Alabama plant already has about 2.3 miles on it because each car is test-driven before being released to customers.
- Hyundai has ambitious plans to go green and wants to be the fuel efficiency leader by 2015. No prototype has been introduced yet, but the company has announced it will release a hybrid compact model next year that will run on lithium-ion polymer batteries and include a combustion engine running on propane.
Many Hyundai models to choose from
The current car lineup provides Hyundai a strong position in the U.S. car market. Long gone are the days when people considered the brand a two-bit discount car. Not only did the Hyundai Genesis get titled with the 2009 award for North American Car of the Year, the Hyundai Sonata picked up the best safe car award from the car insurance industry tester, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Finally, the Elantra grabbed the best North America Car from other brands during the Detroit Auto Show for 2012. Other popular models include the Tucson which offers an affordable option for a crossover SUV and the Accent, a popular compact economy car sold in sedan or hatchback.