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US car market steadies

Sonata on song: Hyundai's Sonata helped the Korean company to a 46 per cent sales gain in the US.

Hyundai shines again as American car market levels out

2 Dec 2009

HYUNDAI helped to drive US car sales into positive territory – just – last month, as the market weaned itself off government cash-for-clunkers incentives and found some new stability.

Americans bought 747,086 cars and light trucks in November – a mere 35 vehicles more than in the same month last year when North American car sales were in a downward spiral.

Analysts were quick to point out that November's narrow gain was at least a move in the right direction, made even more admirable by the fact that November this year had two fewer selling days than the corresponding month last year.

Once again, Hyundai helped itself to a larger chunk of the US market, with sales of the Korean brand rising a whopping 46 per cent year on year to a November record 28,045 units.

This marked the 11th consecutive monthly year-over-year rise for the company at a time when several big players, such as General Motors and Chrysler, have struggled to stem the slide in sales.

Accent, Elantra and Sonata all rocketed up the sales, by 93, 88 and 52 per cent respectively.

Hyundai hopes to finish the year with a market share of four per cent – a full percentage point up on last year’s record share.

Hyundai’s success in the US and many other markets, including Australia, is in contrast with the brand’s experience in Japan where Hyundai has just announced it is withdrawing from the market because it is all too hard against the local Japanese.

 center imageFrom top: Santa Fe, Elantra and Ford Taurus (bottom).

Despite its trials this year, GM was again number one in sales with 150,676 units finding new homes in November – a two per cent decline on November last year, largely due to the discontinuation of several nameplates, including Saturn and Pontiac.

GM said sales of the four brands it is keeping – Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick – were up six per cent on November last year.

Toyota enjoyed a gain of three per cent to take second place (133,700 units), with Ford coming third on 118,536 – on par with last November’s tally.

Ford’s new Taurus and Fusion led the way for the Blue Oval, both up 54 per cent on November 2008.

Chrysler Group remains the last of the US Big Three to find some steady ground, with sales plunging a further 25 per cent to 63,560 vehicles.

By contrast, Nissan had a stellar month, up 21 per cent to 56,288 units, while fellow Japanese ‘transplant’ Honda slipped three per cent to 74,003 vehicles.

Subaru also ramped up sales by 24 per cent, to 16,988 as its Outback and Legacy continued to find traction.

The US market appears to have stabilised at an annualised sales rate of 10.5 million units, which is well below the peak of 16 million four years ago.

In another sign that the market has turned around, GM announced that it planned to turn up the wick on its car production by 75 per cent in the first quarter of next year, while Ford said it aimed to build 58 per cent more cars and light trucks.

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