Jul 28, 2016

    Hyundai shifts gears to accelerate Elantra sales in US


    AT FEBRUARY'S Super Bowl, Hyundai hired X-Men movie star Ryan Reynolds for an ad plugging the new version of its Elantra sedan.

    What was not expected was a slide in first-half sales of the South Korean automaker's United States mainstay.

    When the Elantra's previous redesign hit the US in 2011, sporty styling at an attractive price helped it take on Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. At the Elantra's peak, more than one car in every 20 sold in America was a Hyundai.

    But not even a Hollywood superhero could shield the new Elantra from structural change in the US auto market.

    Hyundai's wish to sell premium cars saw it deliver a more sedate Elantra this year with a higher price - just as Americans rediscovered a taste for gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles.

    From being Hyundai's top US seller last year, Elantra sales skidded 25 per cent in the first half of the year, trailing a 7 per cent drop in its segment, according to data from the company and Autodata.

    On Tuesday, Hyundai said net profit fell for the 10th straight quarter, warning the US market is about to get tougher still.

    It has invested in marketing since the late January launch, expanding the Elantra line-up.

    It said US Elantra sales have steadily improved month on month, describing sales in the first half of July were "very strong".

    Zayong Koo, vice-president in charge of investor relations, said on Tuesday that incentives to coax buyers into showrooms jumped in the first half, without saying how much these affected profitability.

    In the first half, Hyundai sold 374,000 cars in the US, up 0.8 per cent from a year earlier, bolstered by sales of its Tucson SUV.