Hyundai Motor may be a Korean company, but more than half of the cars it sells in the US are made in the US by subsidiary Hyundai Motor America. In Alabama, the company has one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities in North America, primarily producing the Elantra and Sonata passenger car models. Production of the Sante Fe ceased in 2010. It also operates an engineering facility in Michigan and design, research, and testing centers in California. Hyundai vehicles are distributed throughout the US by Hyundai Motor America and are sold and serviced through more than 800 dealerships nationwide. North America is one of parent Hyundai Motor's smaller markets, accounting for about 15% of sales.
In mid-2011 Hyundai Motor America announced that its one millionth Sonata rolled off its Alabama assembly line. Market intelligence provider Kelley Blue Book also reported that for the first time ever, Hyundai ousted top rivals Honda and Toyota to take the #1 spot in brand loyalty for the entire second quarter of 2011. In order to win greater market share in the midsize sedan segment against the likes of the Ford Fusion, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and VW Jetta. the company has been working to give its Sonata a more nipped and tucked look. Its California-based design center added more curves to the model, its head and tail lamps were designed to be reminiscent of jewelry cases, and its chrome grill was improved with special metal surfacing for a more refined look. But the larger challenge for Hyundai, say analysts, will be its ability to keep owners loyal to the brand over the long term.
As US regulations for energy conservation and efficiency get tighter, automakers are looking to incorporate additional design features that will reduce both the size and weight and emissions of their vehicles. Hyundai is the first to publicly announce its plans to achieve a targeted 10% weight reduction across its vehicle line by 2015. It is working on a concept car known as the Blue-Will, an all-electric vehicle built using lighter-weight carbon fiber and engineered plastics. It will run on a lithium polymer battery built by Korean-based LG Chem. Such development is intended to help Hyundai Motor America become the #1 fuel-efficient carmaker in North America. – less