We’re living in a crossover world, and Hyundai is open about the fact that it’s been struggling to meet demand for its utility models. Without production constraints, says Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski, the Tucson compact crossover would be outselling Hyundai’s perennial volume model, the Elantra. There’s a wide-reaching plan in place now to make sure Hyundai dealers are stocked with the models people want to buy.
Step one involves upping output of existing models. Hyundai has brought tooling into its Montgomery, AL, factory to build Santa Fe Sport models alongside the Elantra and Sonata. (The bulk of Santa Fe Sport production takes place at the maxed-out facility in West Point, GA.) This will increase the model’s annual production capacity by about 50,000 units.
The new Tucson, which just went on sale last year, is being afforded an extra 50,000 or so units of capacity this year, which should put it ahead of the Elantra in the company’s internal sales race.
he second part of the plan will bring new models. A B-segment crossover is in the works. This is a catch-up move to go up against several new models that seemingly popped out of nowhere: the Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, Chevy Trax, and Nissan Juke. Toyota is the only other volume player still noticeably absent from, or at least not on the way to, this party, and that will be fixed with the next Scion model.
The Genesis luxury brand has also promised crossover models, and we anticipate the engineers are doing all they can to get those to market as quickly as possible. Because Genesis models will be on platforms distinct from those Hyundai uses, it could be a couple years before the fancy utes land. When the lineup is filled out, bet on luxurious subcompact, compact, midsize, and fullsize crossovers. There’s a good chance Genesis crossovers will outnumber its car models.
As for the Hyundai brand’s car models, remember the Azera? Neither does anyone else. Getting rid of this slow-selling sedan will help free up capacity as well as showroom space. The fullsize sedan is likely to continue on in other markets – specifically the home market, where it’s called the Grandeur – but Hyundai Motors America won’t go through the trouble of getting it ready to sell (or not sell) in the States any more. Axing the Azera has another added benefit: It creates a more definite delineation between the Hyundai lineup and the Genesis luxury brand the company is trying to establish.
All of this banks on the continued popularity of crossovers. Chrysler just admitted something similar in doubling down on the Jeep brand, jettisoning the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart, and paring back its ambitious goals for Alfa Romeo. Barring a return to $4-a-gallon gas, the crossoverfication of the marketplace is a trend that will continue, like it or not.