DETROIT, May 9 (Reuters) - Hyundai Motor Co will introduce a new version of its Tucson next year and believes it can double U.S. sales of the crossover utility vehicle thanks to greater availability from South Korea, a top executive said.
The automaker currently sells about 45,000 Tucson crossover vehicles a year in the United States. But with new assembly plants coming online in China, India and Brazil, capacity will be freed up in Korea to meet U.S. demand for the vehicle, U.S. chief David Zuchowski told reporters on late Thursday.
“We’re missing business in the Tucson segment,” he said, “We think we can easily get to 90,000” sales.
Zuchowski, who took over the U.S. operations in January, said the redesigned Tucson will debut around May 2015.
Hyundai started selling the new version of its Genesis sedan last month, while the new Sonata will go into production next week. A new Elantra small car will debut by the end of 2015, he said.
The roll-outs are part of Hyundai’s plan to introduce 12 new vehicles over the next three years, he said.
Zuchowski also reaffirmed the company’s expectation that it will sell about 750,000 vehicles in the U.S. market this year. That would be up from 720,783 last year, when the South Korean company lost market share due to capacity constraints and an aging lineup of cars.
”Our long-term plans are, we want to gain the market share back that we lost last year,“ he said. ”It’s very, very important to get back to 5 percent symbolically. It’s not going to happen overnight, but that’s our plan.
Hyundai’s U.S. market share fell to 4.6 percent last year from a 2011 peak of 5.1 percent.
Zuchowski said the company believes half of its growth in the United States over the next five years will be driven by demand for crossovers like the Tucson and other new products.
Speculation has swirled in the past about whether Hyundai will add a third U.S. assembly plant. Zuchowski said the company will eventually need added capacity in the region, but it has not reached that point.
It has a plant in Alabama and a Kia factory that builds Hyundai vehicles in Georgia.
Zuchowski said Hyundai owns enough land to expand production in Alabama if needed. He also pointed out that production of subcompact cars by rivals in Mexico could make the U.S.-built Elantra less competitive and lead the company to look at opening a Mexican plant.
Zuchowski said Hyundai expects more strict U.S. safety regulations for the automotive industry due to the fallout from the inability of General Motors Co and regulators over more than a decade to catch a defective ignition switch linked to at least 13 deaths.
“There’s going to be more oversight,” he said. “There’s going to be legislation and there’s going to be severe penalties for those that don’t have early identification of these problems.” (Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Dan Grebler)