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2011-11-13 06:33

GOING HYBRID: Hyundai Sonata sales are expanding in the US but this could be the next generation - a hybrid model announced as third-quarter profit rose 20.7% from a year earlier. Image: AFP

ANN ARBOR, Michigan  - Hyundai is considering building another plant in the US to meet rising demand for the South Korean company's vehicles.

"We are looking at the situation very, very carefully," said John Krafcik, president and chief executive officer of US operations.

The South Korean automaker has experienced strong growth in recent years as it expands its product offerings and benefited from savvy marketing campaigns and trouble at its competitors. It also makes some fine cars...


Sales are up 20.5% so far in 2011 in the US and its market share has jumped to 5.2% from 2.98 in 2008, when auto sales collapsed with the financial crisis that pushed General Motors and Chrysler into bankruptcy.

Hyundai's sister company Kia has posted a 35% jump in sales in 2011 and and its market share has risen to 3.8 percent from 2.02 in 2008.

Krafcik said Hyundai's US dealers could easily sell more vehicles but were hampered by shortages of the company's most popular vehicles. The same problem exists in South Africa.

The CEO cautioned that Hyundai has shifted its focus in recent years and he couldn't predict whether top management was prepared to build a second assembly plant in the United States.


"If this was the old Hyundai, there is no question, they would be building the second plant," he said during a meeting with reporters at the Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center near Ann Arbor, Michigan, "but the focus isn't on volume. It's on building great cars.

"It's a long-term strategy."

Krafcik said Hyundai has been able to make adjustments at its Alabama assembly plant to build about 10% more vehicles this year than in 2011.

A study by the Ann Arbor-based Centre for Automotive Research estimates that Hyundai support more than 94 000 jobs in the US and has contributed more than $7-billion to the US economy so far in 2011.

Included in the analysis were Hyundai's manufacturing and suppliers, research and development, engineering, headquarters and dealership operations.

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