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2011 Hyundai Elantra (Hyundai)
2011 Hyundai Elantra (Hyundai)

Driving It Home

Hyundai seizes the moment, sets blistering sales Add to ...

Hyundai Auto Canada is setting a blistering pace for sales as we near the halfway mark of 2011.

The Elantra compact was Canada's best-selling car in May. Sales were up 28.4 per cent to 4,780, while the No. 2 Honda Civic slipped 1.9 per cent to 4,508. Honda's well-documented supply and production problems contributed to the decline in Civic sales.

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The truth is, Hyundai has clearly seized the moment.

To begin with, Hyundai's key Asian rivals are struggling to reach full production levels in the wake of the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Hyundai's competitors from Asia have also been battling a long list of other issues, from aging - and in some cases dull - products, to instances when quality and safety matters have been thrown into the public eye, cast under a negative light.

With a perfect storm of issues swirling around the biggest Japanese car companies, the South Korean auto maker has found itself poised to grab market share based on the improved quality of its vehicles and major advances in technology, design and safety. For instance, the reinvented Elantra was the sixth Hyundai to achieve a "Top Safety Pick" designation by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the United States.

Currency advantages have also helped Hyundai, as has increased production in North America of key models such as the Elantra and Sonata.

In all, Hyundai's lineup moved well in May. The company sold 13,967 units last month, a 10.7 per cent gain over the same period in 2010. That makes it 29 straight months of year-over-year sales growth for Hyundai Canada. For the year, Hyundai Canada's 2011 sales are up nine per cent to 55,286 units.

Some perspective: Through the first five months of the year, Honda brand sales in Canada were down 8.3 per cent to 43,820. Even with sales of Honda's Acura premium brand (5,323) included in the overall total, Hyundai is out-selling Honda in Canada by 55,286 to 49,143, according to figures supplied by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants.

Hyundai now finds itself within striking distance of Toyota Canada, too. Toyota brand sales through the first five months were 61,968, notes DesRosiers. It is possible, though unlikely, that the Hyundai brand might out-sell the Toyota brand in Canada this year, though Toyota says full production of its lineup will be back to normal by the fall.

Whatever Toyota does, Hyundai looks to be setting an aggressive sales plan for the second half of the year. Take the all-new 2012 Accent subcompact. It will start at $13,199, which officially is a reduction of $1,100 from the 2011 model - though virtually no one has paid full pop for an Accent in the last few years, not with all the discounting Hyundai Canada has done. Hyundai does insist that the new Elantra also includes some $1,500 in additional features compared to the outgoing model.

Hyundai's performance is surely a wake-up call for its competitors. It might also be a source of inspiration. Hyundai was a mess in the late 1990s and even through the early part of the last decade. Today's performance shows that with the right combination of products, a spectacular turnaround is possible for even the most troubled car company.

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