Japanese automakers fear, admire South Korea’s Hyundai

October 5, 2009

Japanese automakers fear, admire South Korea’s Hyundai

By SARAH A. WEBSTER
FREE PRESS AUTOMOTIVE EDITOR

If you didn’t notice by its 27% sales gain last month — when the industry toppled 23% — Hyundai is "awesome."

http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle/Hyundai-i10/243787/" target="_blank">So says Takanobu Ito, the CEO of Hyundai’s rival Honda, according to Autocar.

Honda – and Nissan – both believe that South Korea’s Hyundai is a threat to Japenese automakers’ global success.

(And lots of other automakers, in my book).

“Hyundai is awesome,” Takanobu said. “They are undoubtedly a threat because their products are cheap, and the quality is improving.”

Of course, Hyundai captures less than 5% of the United States sales market today, which makes big gains easier here.

But that market share has to come from somewhere, and nobody wants to give up even a point.

A Hyundai official recently told me that the company is capturing U.S. market share not from one or two particular automakers but from “everybody.”

Chrysler déjà vu

While Hyundai’s busy grabbing up market share, new Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne will apparently be busy trying to wean the automaker off of incentives.

As the Free Press’ Greg Gardner reports, Mr. Marchionne is apparently under the impression he can change the rules of the board game called the U.S. auto industry.

Dear Sir: You might want to take a look at the track record of others who tried to opt out of the incentive game in America, especially when their brands, well, have the standing that yours do.

The bottom line: They failed.

Saturn dealers ready to sue

In other news this Monday morning, http://tinyurl.com/ycx6vo6" target="_blank">Automotive News reports that GM’s loyal Saturn dealers are winding up their lawyers after Detroit business icon Roger Penske pulled out of a tentative deal to buy the storied brand.

“We probably won’t win, but that’s not the point,” said Gordon Stewart, who owns six Saturn stores in the Chicago area.

I’m sure there are many dealers still pushing for another buyer for Saturn – there was more than one bidder for the brand – but don’t hold your breath.

GM has said the wind down has already begun. Dealers can’t order more cars. Saturn advertising is to stop.

The Wall Street Journal even has http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704471504574447122719252350.html?mod=googlenews_wsj" target="_blank">a sort-of epitaph on the brand today, which blames the failure of Saturn on “GM’s dysfunctional orbit.”

Let’s hope with the coming death of Saturn that this is the last story we have to read making odd planetary references.

Two fun stories to start your Monday

• Jalopnik.com has http://jalopnik.com/5373645/exclusive-the-chevy-caprice-police-car-is-back" target="_blank">photos of the new Chevy Caprice police car.

• And http://www.autolinedetroit.tv/" target="_blank">Autoline has a report on really green engines, powered by algae biofuel, a.k.a.: seaweed.

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